Evidence and Agency: Norms of Belief for Promising and Resolving

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book is concerned with the question of how, as agents, we should take into account evidence when making a future-directed commitment. In particular, it addresses the following problem: suppose we are promising or resolving to do something but we have evidence that there is a significant chance that we will fail to follow through. If we believe that we will follow through, we seem to be irrational. Yet if we believe that there is a significant chance that we won’t, we seem to be insincere. Hence, it seems, it is improper to make such a promise or resolution—despite the fact that we do so very often. The problem is to explain this apparent inconsistency in our practice of promising and resolving. The book considers a number of potential responses to this problem, including appeals to non-cognitivism about practical reason, the notion of practical knowledge, and evidentialism. It then defends the Sartrean Response: as agents who are free, we have a distinct view of our future actions insofar as they are up to us. We can settle the question of what we will do in light of our practical reasons. That is why we can sometimes rationally believe that we will follow through on our commitments despite the evidence. The last chapter considers the problem from the point of view of a promisee. It defends the possibility of doxastic partiality by offering an account of trust in testimony that explains trust as part of the Strawsonian participant stance.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Electronic)9780191782497, 9780191023422
ISBN (Print)9780198714040
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • promise
  • resolution
  • commitment
  • freedom
  • rationality
  • trust
  • testimony
  • evidentialism
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Peter Strawson

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  • Sanders Book Prize

    Marusic, Beri (Recipient), 2015

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

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