In this innovative study, William Vitek presents the act of promising as both a fundamental human experience and an ethically charged paradox in need of explanation and understanding. He evaluates contemporary approaches to promise by such philosophers as John Rawls, John Searle, Henry Sidgwick, Jan Narveson, P.S. Atiyah, H.A. Prichard, W.D. Ross, and Michael Robins. Citing their limited focus on promissory obligation, Vitek claims that promising should be seen as a complex social practice. The author demonstrates how a social practice account of promising succeeds where other approaches do not. With engaging examples of promises made in everyday life, in extraordinary circumstances, and in literary works, Vitek grapples with the central paradox of promising: that human beings can intend a future to which they are largely blind. Although the nature of promises has been much discussed in the context of other topics (e.g., theories of language, ethics, and law), this book offers a unique, focused treatment of the subject as a complex human activity that encompasses differing interpretations and changes in nature over time. Promising explores this activity that involves the use of intuition, judgment, and emotion and that has challenged people throughout history.
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