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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Even if promising is a kind of assertion or accomplished by making an assertion, it has a normative upshot that goes beyond the normative upshot of ordinary assertions. When one breaks a promise, one is liable to criticism for actions subsequent to making the promise—a kind of criticism to which merely asserting something would not make one liable. This article explores various explanations for the ways in which a promise creates these obligations. It distinguishes those that see the relevant obligations as falling out of some prior obligation and those that treat promissory obligation as a new creation. If obligations generate reasons to comply, these latter accounts seem to postulate reasons that come from nowhere, and this in turn has led to some puzzlement. This article surveys the puzzlement, as well as ways to embrace it and ways to avoid it, while also examining reasons to be glad one can bind oneself by promising. Finally, it explores the possibility that promises as illocutionary acts are a species of assertion or constituted by assertions.

Keywords: assertion, promising, assurance, normative powers, constitutive conventions, social practice, joint commitment, obligation, communicative intentions, explicit performatives

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