A contemporary philosopher takes an inventive look at the very human act of making promises
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William Vitek enlarges our understanding by treating the act of promising as a social practice and complex human experience. Citing engaging examples of promises made in everyday life, in extraordinary circumstances, and in literary works, Vitek grapples with the central paradox of promising: that human beings can intend a future to which they are largely blind.
Promising evaluates contemporary approaches to the topic by such philosophers as John Rawls, John Searle, Henry Sidgwick, P.S. Atiyah, and Michael Robbins but transcend their more limited focus on promissory obligation. Vitek's innovative approach moves beyond theories of language, ethics, and law to unveil a complex human activity subject to shifting interpretations and changes in nature.
"Vitek's volume is a rich tapestry of literary, social, psychological, and philosophical insights. Eminently readable, it is a model for how to make philosophy clear and accessible to a wide audience. Both undergraduates and scholars in the humanities and social sciences will find it enlightening."
"Vitek surveys a wide range of theories about promises, and tests their adequacy against some great cases from real life and George Eliot's novels. His sensitive and realistic account of the practice of promising as we actually engage in it shows up most previous philosophical accounts of promise, including my own, as crude over-simplifications or as legalistic half-truths. A fresh, informed, and illuminating approach to an important old topic."
"William Vitek has given us a thorough and clearly written account of that complex and uniquely human social practice, promisingof the conditions that make promising desirable, possible, and a significant addition to our moral lives.... All in all, an original and sensible contribution to moral philosophy."
William Vitek is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Clarkson University and the co-editor of Applying Philosophy.