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Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 6$
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Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198790587

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198790587.001.0001

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The Normative Force of Promising

The Normative Force of Promising

(p.77) 4 The Normative Force of Promising
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 6

Jack Woods

Oxford University Press

Why do promises give rise to reasons? This chapter considers a few possibilities which do not work, then outlines a more plausible explanation of the normativity of promising—that it is constitutive of the practice of promising that promise-breaking implies blame-liability and that we take blame-liability to be an undesirable thing. This view, quasi-conventionalism, provides a reduction of the normativity of promising to conventionalism about liability and instrumental normativity. The result is an account of the normativity of promising that (a) explains the particularity of promissory reasons, (b) predicts that our reasons to keep our promises are often overdetermined, and (c) provides a natural explanation of fringe-cases of promissory reasons: deathbed promises, immoral promises, conflicting promises, and promises which no one expects you to keep. Meeting these three desiderata of an account of promissory reasons gives us good reason to take quasi-conventionalism seriously.

Keywords:   normativity, promising, reasons, normative conventionalism, blameworthiness, conflicting promises

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