Saturday, April 4, 2015

Vows to God and expectational views of promises

On Scanlon's expectational view of promises, a crucial part of why a promise is binding is that it creates an expectation of performance in the promisee. But if Sam vows something to God, then that doesn't create any expectation of performance on the part of God. For if Sam will perform the action, God has always known that. And if Sam won't, God's always known that. But if there were a God, one could make promises to him. So the expectational view is false.

8 comments:

Walter Van den Acker said...

Dr Pruss

Are you sure that if there were a God, one could make promises to him?

Alexander R Pruss said...

People have done it for millennia!
Ok, that was a cheap shot. But I think there is something to it. We would need a very strong argument to think they were so confused about what promises are that it was just empty words (or thoughts).

Mark Murphy said...

I make an argument against Scanlon's view as applied to promises to God in the divine authority book along these lines, also.

Note, though, that Scanlon has a backup argument, which he introduces by way of the case of the "Profligate Pal" — someone who everybody knows is bad at keeping promises, and no one expects to follow through. Scanlon argues that though this is a deviant case, you can explain the obligation in terms of the benefit induced. So even if God knows that you aren't going to follow through, if God would not have granted a benefit if not for the vow, that could be the reason for keeping the promise.

Alexander R Pruss said...

God might not grant a benefit if he foresees Pal won't keep the vow. But that's no excuse for Pal.

Alexander R Pruss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Walter Van den Acker said...

Dr Pruss

I agree that we would need a very strong argument to think that they were so confused about what promises are that it was just empty words, but the point is thta, in order for you to declare that the expectational view is false, you also need a very stroing argument. Because maybe those people who have made promises for millennia have done so because they had an expectational view.

Alexander R Pruss said...

We know people have for millennia made promises to God. It's just speculation what theory of promises the hoi polloi had in the millennia before Scanlon.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Dr Pruss

"We know people have for millennia made promises to God. It's just speculation what theory of promises the hoi polloi had in the millennia before Scanlon."

And therefore declaring that the fact people have made promises to God shows that the expectational view is false seems a little bit premature.