Promise Etc.

24 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2011 Last revised: 28 Oct 2015

See all articles by Gregory Klass

Gregory Klass

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: April 29, 2011


This Article examines the moral obligations contractual agreements generate. It distinguishes a narrow sense of "promise," central to autonomy theories, according to which to promise is to communicate an intention to undertake an obligation by the very communication of that intention. Not every agreement involves promises in this sense. Yet nonpromissory agreements too commonly generate moral obligations. And even when a party promises to perform, her promise need not be the only reason for her moral obligation to do so. Other possible reasons include reliance, an invitation to trust, implicit or explicit, principles of reciprocity, and the harm that nonperformance might cause the parties' relationship. This description of the moral landscape of contractual agreements complicates the project of finding a moral basis for contract law's duty-imposing function. The Article applies it to critically assess some recent arguments claims the relationship between contract and promise from Michael Pratt, Jody Kraus and Seana Shiffrin.

Keywords: Contract, Promise, Moral Theory

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K12

Suggested Citation

Klass, Gregory, Promise Etc. (April 29, 2011). Suffolk University Law Review, Vol. 45, 2012, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-19, Available at SSRN:

Gregory Klass (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
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United States


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