The Obligation to Keep a Promise

H. A. Prichard

in Moral Writings

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780199250196
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598265 | DOI:

Series: British Moral Philosophers

 The Obligation to Keep a Promise

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A promise to do some action seems to create a binding obligation to do that action. And yet, paradoxically, an obligation seems not to be a fact that we can create or bring into existence; we can create an obligation only by creating or bringing into existence something else. The only way to avoid the paradox is to show that the act of promising creates something other than an obligation, which nonetheless binds us to perform the action in question. After considering and rejecting various options such as the promisee's expectation and the promisor's resolve, Prichard locates the bindingness of a promise in a prior general promise, which allows the noises we make when promising to generate an obligation to perform the promised action.

Keywords: action; expectation; obligation; paradox; promise; resolve

Chapter.  5145 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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