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13 September: Richard Healey

“Immoral Promises”

Abstract: An important feature of our power to promise is that we have significant latitude in deciding the content of the promises we make. We can promise to perform an indefinite range of actions in an indefinite range of contexts and with varying degrees of solemnity. In this talk I investigate how far this latitude extends. In particular, I ask whether some promises fail to bind in virtue of their immoral content. For example, can I make a morally binding promise to you to kill an innocent person? I aim to show that there are notable drawbacks to the positions held by those on both sides of this debate, and then begin – tentatively – to develop a better account.