The Problem with Promising

David Owens

in Shaping the Normative Landscape

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199691500
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744938 | DOI:
The Problem with Promising

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David Hume asked how it is possible to bind oneself by making a promise. Since breach of promise is, in essence, a bare wronging, Hume’s Problem of Normative Power is best understood as an instance of the Problem of Bare Wronging, namely the problem of how an act can be wrong even though it constitutes action against no human interest. Hume and John Rawls both formulate versions of the practice theory of promising which attempt to resolve this problem. They both assume that the function of a promise is to serve our interest in social co-ordination. We can solve the problem and vindicate the practice theory only by rejecting this shared assumption.

Keywords: David Hume; John Rawls; normative power; bare wronging; social co-ordination; practice theory

Chapter.  10257 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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