Does a Promise Transfer a Right?

26 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2014

Date Written: September 1, 2014


A number of authors from Grotius onwards have proposed that a binding promise transfers a right from promisor to promisee. The promisee now has the right, previously possessed by the promisor, to determine whether the promisor performs the act mentioned in their promise. This proposal runs into problems of detail. The chapter first reformulates the theory so as to avoid these problems. It then considers a more fundamental difficulty raised by Hume and argues that the reformulated theory succumbs to Hume’s critique. The point is illustrated by way of a detailed discussion of the difference between consent and choice. Finally, a new theory of promising based on the idea of an authority interest is proposed.

Suggested Citation

Owens, David, Does a Promise Transfer a Right? (September 1, 2014). 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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