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Shaping the Normative Landscape$
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David Owens

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199691500

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691500.001.0001

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The Problem with Promising

The Problem with Promising

Chapter:
(p.123) 5 The Problem with Promising
Source:
Shaping the Normative Landscape
Author(s):

David Owens

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691500.003.0006

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

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