The Rationality of Promising

J.L. & Publ. Pol’y (Forthcoming)

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-22

28 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2018 Last revised: 5 Apr 2018

Date Written: March 26, 2018


This essay first examines various conceptions of promissory obligation, which suggest a range of possible benefits associated with promising. Theories of temporally extended practical rationality suggest that to obtain benefits of this kind, it may be rational for a promisor to treat his or her promise as binding. The difficulty is that, whatever practical and normative benefits binding promises may have, it will not always be epistemically rational for the promisor to perform. Thus, to the extent that markets rely on binding promises, they rely on an element of irrationality in human decision-making.

Keywords: rules, rationality, contracts

Suggested Citation

Sherwin, Emily L., The Rationality of Promising (March 26, 2018). J.L. & Publ. Pol’y (Forthcoming); Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-22. Available at SSRN:

Emily L. Sherwin (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics