Black Lives Matter

Wednesday 🌦️

1106 |  I’ll start with a quick recap of where I was last night. I was having the thought: “In order to provide an account of why we should keep promises, I must first presume that we suddenly no longer want to keep the promise, or that we’ve forgotten about the promise, or that we have a good reason to not keep the promise.”

To continue then…

I think that people are fundamentally social creatures, who find intimacy (eg, being able to see eye to eye with someone) pleasurable. We don’t just want to eat and sleep. We hope for things — and we want those things that we hope for (eg, love, respect, reasons, etc), to be true and real. We want to see and be seen. We want to create a world, where perhaps there was at first nothing. And we think it’s exciting when others can share a world with us. I think it’s why we like to read certain books, and why we like to listen to our music, and why we have prima facie reason to want to keep our genuinely-made promises (if we can remember all of them, that is).

With this in mind, then, perhaps we can think about “promise-keeping” from a different perspective — eg, designing social institutions so that ordinary people have less reason to need to break their promises. We can also understand that promises have degrees of seriousness and are sometimes sensitive to external factors, and so we can’t necessarily talk about all promises as if they were rigid categorical imperatives.

Now, if I were to develop an account of why we should keep our promises, ultimately it’s going to be the reason of piety. Of course, I have a very special way of thinking about what “piety” is (it’s a subdivision of justice, concerning our relationship with ourselves) — but basically my argument would point back to the individual, and the a fact that we just are the sorts of creatures that have a prima facie reason for wanting to keep promises [as I’ve already explained]. That said, I tend to think that if there really is a good reason for not keeping a promise, then perhaps we shouldn’t keep it.

Okay. So now, I can continue to read what Scanlon himself says about why we should keep promises.

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1630 | [ Continuing my study of Scanlon’s book, What We Owe To Each Other… ]

Scanlon helpfully states:

“I do not doubt that there is such a thing as a social practice of promising, which consists in the fact that people accept certain norms, which they generally follow and expect others to follow. The question is what role this practice plays in generating obligations to keep one’s promises. According to the standard institutional analyses, these obligations arise from a general duty to comply with just and useful social practices.” (p.296)

It’s apparent that the “Standard” view is quite different from my own account on promise-keeping given earlier. I will name my account as the “Socratic” account of promise-keeping, to differentiate it from the “Standard” account.

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1753 | [ Continuing my study of Scanlon’s book, What We Owe To Each Other… ]

This bit is lovely to me:

“…if you do believe it then the truth of this belief will matter to you…” (Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other, p.307)

It’s truly amazing how that works.