Joint Practical Deliberation


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project investigates several speech acts that have the power to change moral obligations: promises, offers, commands, requests, agreements, and consent. It argues that each of these acts is a move within joint practical deliberation, the activity of deciding together what to do. These speech acts change people's moral obligations by proposing to make (or retract) joint decisions about what they will do. For example, when one person promises to read another person’s favorite book, this promise brings into force a joint decision between the two to the effect that the first person will read the book. This joint decision, in turn, grounds the first person's obligation to keep his or her promise. The dissertation defends this deliberative theory by developing an account of joint practical deliberation and showing how it can explain the moral force and significance of these acts in terms of the everyday activity of deciding together what to do.