Acta Analytica

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 287–318

Promise as Practice Reason


DOI: 10.1007/s12136-008-0033-1

Cite this article as:
Sheinman, H. Acta Anal (2008) 23: 287. doi:10.1007/s12136-008-0033-1


To promise someone to do something is to commit oneself to that person to do that thing, but what does that commitment consist of? Some think a promissory commitment is an obligation to do what’s promised, and that while promising practices facilitate the creation of promissory obligations, they are not essential to them. I favor the broadly Humean view in which, when it comes to promises (and so promissory obligations), practices are of the essence. I propose the Practice Reason Account of promises, according to which a promise is basically to give oneself a self-interested practice reason to do what’s promised. One achieves this feat by invoking self-enforcing independent practice rules thanks to which one’s doing what’s promised preserves one’s promissory trust(worthiness) and promising power. However, nothing in this account supports the Hume-Rawls claim that promise-keeping or promise-breaking is right just when and because it conforms to practice rules that are justified by their good- or right-making properties.


Promise Practice Reason Obligation Self-interest Hume 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rice University-MS 14HoustonUSA

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