Promises and Conflicting Obligations

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Vol. 11, November 2016

20 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2016 Last revised: 9 Nov 2016

Date Written: October 2, 2016

Abstract

This paper addresses two questions. First can a binding promise conflict with other binding promises and thereby generate conflicting obligations? Second can binding promises conflict with other non-promissory obligations, so that we are obliged to keep so-called ‘wicked promises’? The answer to both questions is ‘yes.’ The discussion examines both ‘natural right’ and ‘social practice’ approaches to promissory obligation and I conclude that neither can explain why we should be unable to make binding promises that conflict with our prior obligations. There is also consideration of the parallel case of ‘wicked commands.’

Suggested Citation

Owens, David, Promises and Conflicting Obligations (October 2, 2016). Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Vol. 11, November 2016 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2846697

David Owens (Contact Author)

Kings College London ( email )

Philosophy Building
The Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://davidowensphilosophy.wordpress.com/

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