Steven Norris, ‘The social ontology of promising’

This paper takes an ontological approach to the subject of promising. Setting aside the typical concern over promissory obligations, I draw on recent work from the field of social ontology and develop a promissory schema that characterizes the functional role the practice of promising plays in our lives. This schema, put in terms of one agent’s voluntary and intentional attempts to provide another agent with a specific kind of assurance, helps explain what we are doing when we make a promise, and what we desire when we ask that a promise be made. The promissory schema is explanatorily beneficial as it can help us understand why certain actions may be interpreted as promises, thereby reminding us that we need to be sensitive to the ways our actions can give rise to expectations in others.

Steven Norris, The social ontology of promising, Ratio, First published: 12 May 2021.

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