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Moral Writings$
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H. A. Prichard and Jim MacAdam

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199250196

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199250197.001.0001

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The Obligation to Keep a Promise

The Obligation to Keep a Promise

Chapter:
(p.257) 12. The Obligation to Keep a Promise
Source:
Moral Writings
Author(s):

H. A. Prichard

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199250197.003.0012

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

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