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The Value of a Promise

Dennis M. Patterson
Law and Philosophy
Vol. 11, No. 4 (1992), pp. 385-402
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3504858
Page Count: 18
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The Value of a Promise
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Abstract

The question "What makes a promise binding?" has received much attention both from philosophers and lawyers. One argument is that promises are binding because the act of making a promise creates expectations in the promisee, which expectations it would be morally wrong to disappoint. Another argument is grounded in the effects engendered by the making of a promise, specifically actions taken in reliance upon the promise. These two positions, the so-called expectation and reliance theories, have traditionally been thought to be incommensurable. In a recent article, 'Promises and Practices', Thomas Scanlon advances a theory of promising developed out of both of these positions. This article argues that Scanlon's argument fails because it cannot avoid the incommensurability of the expectation and reliance principles.

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