Promising Without Intending

22 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2008 Last revised: 23 Dec 2008

Date Written: February 1, 2008


It is widely held that one who sincerely promises to do something must at least intend to do that thing: a promise communicates the intention to perform. In this paper, I argue that a promise need only communicate the intention to undertake an obligation to perform. I consider examples of sincere promisors who have no intention of performing. I argue that this fits well with what we want to say about other performatives - giving, commanding etc. Furthermore, it supports a theory of promissory obligation which I have advocated elsewhere - the authority interest theory - against the orthodox information interest theory.

Suggested Citation

Owens, David, Promising Without Intending (February 1, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

David Owens (Contact Author)

Kings College London ( email )

Philosophy Building
The Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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