Friday, February 08, 2008

Promises and Care

Promises are like contracts. If you promise something to someone, they have the power to dissolve the promise, morally freeing you from the promised responsibility, if they choose. If you promise to wash someone's car and then they decide they don't want it washed or don't want you to wash it, they can simply say never mind and you are off the hook.

But suppose the promise is to someone you care about and it involves something they care about, but dissolve the promise anyway. Are you still freed from the responsibility? Say it's a grandparent whom you visit regularly and you've promised to come by twice a week. Your grandparent starts to worry that the visits are interfering with other things you are doing and tells you not to bother coming by so often. Or you promise you partner that you'll stop drinking caffeine because she reads of negative health effects, but she knows how much you enjoy your coffee, so she frees you from the promise, but you still know she'll worry about the physiological consequences. Are you still freed from the promise if the situation that led you to make the promise is about care and remains unchanged even though the promise has been dissolved?