Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):475-91 (2002)

Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh
T.M. Scanlon (1998) proposes that promise breaking is wrong because it shows manipulative disregard for the expectations for future behavior created by promising. I argue that this account of promissory obligation is mistaken in it own right, as well as being at odds with Scanlon's contractualism. I begin by placing Scanlon's account of promising within a tradition that treats the creation of expectations in promise recipients as central to promissory obligation. However, a counterexample to Scanlon's account, his case of the "Profligate Pal," will show that this view of promissory obligation, which I call the Expectations View, is incorrect. In its place, I propose an account of promissory obligation I call Promising as Accountability, according to which promising is a way of making oneself accountable to others for a future act. Not only is Promising as Accountability a more defensible approach to promissory obligation, it also better fits with certain general features of Scanlon's contractualism.
Keywords promising  contractualism  Scanlon
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ISBN(s) 0038-4283
DOI 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2002.tb01913.x
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What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785/2002 - Oxford University Press.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Harvard University Press.

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