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William Vitek

Publication Year: 1993

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This project began long ago with a desire to break free and to give some sense to my prephilosophical views. I was raised in a home where wistful intentions were cast as promises and broken promises cast as lies. Years later I realized that my dad is, by disposition, a Kantian, whereas I am an Aristotelian. He sees moral rules...

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Chapter One: The Paradox of Promise: Some Introductory Remarks

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pp. 14-34

Friedrich Nietzsche's prose cuts clear to the center and identifies the fundamental paradox of promising: human beings can intend a future they see only vaguely. In promising, we engage our wills in the process of getting the future to tum out as we planned. But it is precisely our relative blindness about the future...

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Chapter Two: Approaches to Promise: The Contemporary Landscape

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pp. 35-94

It is a perfectly good piece of common sense to believe that promises are obligatory and that after having made a promise one should, all things being equal, keep it. But as Ludwig Wittgenstein notes with frustration, philosophers cannot keep themselves from questioning the ordinary person's good sense and from...

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Chapter Three: Laced Up in Formulas: Contemporary Approaches Considered

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pp. 95-143

Collectively, the material cited in Chapter Two represents some of the best work in contemporary philosophy. The authors are well known and their contributions are much discussed in the literature. It is perhaps presumptuous to take them to task for failing to generate a theory of promise when they...

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Chapter Four: Outlines of a Theory of Practice

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pp. 144-189

The institutional approach to promise uses constitutive rules to create and define actions within institutions. There is no checkmate without the rules of chess, no touchdown without the rules of football, and no promissory obligation without the rules of promise. I argued that although such a view may be able to capture certain aspects of games and public institutions...

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Chapter Five: Promise as Practice

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pp. 190-233

Having outlined a theory of practice, it is time to address the questions of whether promise is describable as a practice and whether the practice approach to promise is superior to the alternatives canvassed in earlier chapters. I begin by showing how promise fits into a practice framework and then argue that this approach avoids the many criticisms...

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pp. 234-236

This study has urged a broader view of promise than has been taken by numerous contemporary approaches. If promise is seen as a complex social practice, then theoretical approaches must likewise be conceptually rich and reflect the social nature of this practice. This requires a willingness on the part of philosophers to go beyond...


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pp. 237-253


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pp. 255-265


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pp. 267-270

E-ISBN-13: 9781439904091

Publication Year: 1993