Mark Freakley
Mark Freakley

Project Title: The power and fragility of commitment

Principal Advisor: Associate Professor Marguerite La Caze

Principal Advisor: David Hume considered ‘mysterious and incomprehensible’ the idea that when someone utters a promise an obligation has been created that somehow transcends their future desires or inclinations. Nevertheless, the intuition remains that while a promise may be overridden it cannot be unmade: I may fail to keep a promise and I may be released from it but I cannot un-promise. And though promising is treated as a paradigm of commitment, clearly there are other modes of commitment that share the conception of a self somehow freely bound to future action, e.g., the commitments expressed in professing love or stoning to death an adulterous spouse. How can the self be free but bound by its commitments? This research aims to clarify the nature of commitment, how it binds, and its place in conceptions of integrity and the self. Key questions guiding the research are: What are the varieties of commitment and what, if any, are the differences in how commitments hold or bind their possessors? Do the coherence and consistency of commitments best explain integrity or does their mode and substantive content need to be taken into account as well? The role of commitment in cases of hypocrisy and fanaticism, two of integrity’s principal defeaters, will be explored in order to test and further develop the research findings.

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