AuthorHabib, Allen Nabil
Committee ChairChristiano, Thomas
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe primary aim of the dissertation is to introduce a new theory of promissory obligation, the authority theory. The authority theory holds that promises are obligatory because they are commands we give ourselves, as authorities over ourselves. I motivate the theory by arguing that traditional views of promising can't explain promises we make to ourselves.In the first chapter I introduce and detail the notion of a promissory obligation. I briefly recount some of the history of the Western philosophical views of promissory obligations, focusing on the Natural Law tradition from the Stoics, through the Roman and Medieval writers, into the 17th Century.In the second chapter, I introduce the notion of a promise to the self. I argue that vows, oaths and pledges are best explained as self promises. I then counter two important objections to self promises: That self promises can't be obligatory because the promiser can release herself from the promise; and that such instances of putative promise are best explained as expressions of acknowledgement of prior obligations.In the third chapter I offer arguments that the current crop of theories of promising are unable to account for self promises. I categorize three modern approaches to promising: prudentialism, which grounds promissory obligation in the potential harm a promise-breaker might suffer for his transgression; expectationalism, which grounds the obligation in the expectations that promises raise in promisees, and conventionalism, which grounds the obligation in the convention of promising. I argue that none of these approaches can accommodate promises to the self, and that a new approach is indicated.In the final chapter I introduce the new theory. I explain how it is that we have the authority to issue commands to ourselves, and I argue for the probity of such self commands by reference to the existence of such reflexive authority in other venues, most notably in the armed forces. I also list the advantages the authority theory has over its competition, apart from its ability to explain self promises. I conclude by outlining a future research project in examining the meta-ethical implications of reflexive authority.