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The Philosophy of Trust$

Paul Faulkner and Thomas Simpson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732549

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732549.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Introduction
Source:
The Philosophy of Trust
Author(s):

Paul Faulkner

Thomas Simpson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732549.003.0001

Abstract and Keywords

In this introduction Faulkner and Simpson provide a brief overview of trust and outline of the collected papers.

Keywords:   trust, cooperation, knowledge, social philosophy

Trust is central to our social lives. We know by trusting what others tell us. We act on that basis, and on the basis of trust in their promises and implicit commitments. Trust is central to our having a shared life together. Further, and non-instrumentally, trusting relations are themselves of great value. In trusting others, we realize distinctive forms of value.

This volume collects new philosophical essays on trust. By doing so, we help remedy the relative neglect that the topic has suffered in Anglophone philosophy. This neglect is especially striking when compared with the quantity of work on concepts of similar significance, such as knowledge, justice, or truth. The neglect is worth remedying because of both the importance of trust and its intrinsic interest. The task of this Introduction is to illustrate the importance of the topic, by tracing out three broad areas of enquiry in which trust is significant. As the essays predominantly address the core analytical question of identifying and understanding the attitude of trust, this also helps to set the volume in intellectual context. Regarding the intrinsic interest of the topic, we let the essays speak for themselves. Summaries of each chapter then orient readers to the volume’s contents.

1. Trust and Cooperation

Annette Baier’s ‘Trust and Antitrust’ (1986) is the starting point for contemporary philosophical reflection on trust. Her paper is cited invariably for its account of trust, on which trust is reliance on another person’s goodwill towards oneself. Her reasons for addressing the topic, however, are pertinent here. She starts by noting a ‘strange silence’ on trust in the moral philosophical canon, and specifically on the question of whom I should trust, in what way, and why (p. 232). In answering that, we should find a test for judging trust relationships from a moral point of view. The importance of doing so, and her explanation for the strange silence, derive from the same claim.

Her central claim is that contract between free persons of roughly equal power and capacities is a poor model for swathes of the moral life, in which we cooperate with and (p.2) care for each other. Baier justifies this by observing the diversity of relationships where inequality of power is a fundamental fact. This is certainly the case descriptively, where many relationships are marked with inequalities of power—think of such relations as parent–child, husband–wife, disabled person–carer, or citizen–government official. In some cases, though of course not all, this is normatively unproblematic. But this normativity is not well evaluated in terms of when someone is obliged to keep a contract. Not only is this because the terms of these relationships are not actually structured by contract, but more fundamentally, these relationships are not chosen—often and sometimes usually un-chosen, and by at least one of the parties. In contrast, contracts are binding only when freely entered into. The same is true of promises.

Baier takes the observation to undermine a broader liberal vision, on which the voluntariness of relationships is a condition on their respectability. The contractarian is hoist with the same petard. Their central device, of what people would agree to under appropriately specified conditions, similarly fails to address the morality of non-voluntary relationships. In contrast, trust can well exist in cooperative and caring relationships which are not chosen. So Baier’s central aim is to provide a test for evaluating when trust relationships are morally decent. The importance of addressing trust, then, derives from the incompleteness of inherited moral theory.

Her explanation for the strange silence relates her central claim to the position of the great dead moral philosophers. They were men, mostly of independent means, many of whom were bachelors or functional bachelors, in a context where women were counted on to serve men. She remarks that it should not surprise us that

they managed to relegate to the mental background the web of trust tying most moral agents to one another, and to focus their philosophical attention so single-mindedly on cool, distanced relations between more or less free and equal adult strangers, say, the members of an all male club… . Relations between equals and nonintimates will be the moral norm for adult males whose dealings with others are mainly business or restrained social dealings with similarly placed males. But for lovers, husbands, fathers, the ill, the very young, and the elderly, other relationships with their moral potential and perils will loom larger. (248)

In juxtaposition to the equality presumed by members of a club, Baier proposes infant–parent relations as an alternative paradigm of relationship that moral theory must address.

Baier’s claims against the contractarian and liberal are contestable. John Locke, for instance, explicitly addresses the descriptive fact of the inequality of power, arguing that it constitutes no objection to his contractualist doctrine (Two Treatises, II.8). But she is surely right that there is an omission here and the incompleteness of contract for patterns of actual cooperation has also been the starting point for a large-scale enquiry into trust outside philosophy. After observing that much cooperation takes place outside of contract, social scientists from a variety of disciplines have sought to explain how trust can sustain cooperation. Contemporary work on trust was galvanized by the landmark publication of Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations (1988), (p.3) edited by Diego Gambetta. That volume brought together scholars from philosophy, economics, history, zoology, political theory, psychology, anthropology, and sociology. Although the contributors have no unifying intellectual vision, Anthony Pagden’s study of some political economists from eighteenth-century Naples is illustrative of the kind of concern animating their work. He reports their explanation of how new Spanish rulers, the Habsburgs, reduced a once flourishing trading state to economic ruin. They did so through instituting an aristocratic honour code that dissolved pre-existing bonds of trust which were based on civic virtue. Similarly influential subsequent work has picked up this theme. Francis Fukuyama (1995), for instance, addressed the interrelation between interpersonal ties and national economic prospects; and Robert Putnam’s work on social capital (1995, 2000) investigated the political consequences of those ties.

While this emphasis on how pre-existent social ties sustain cooperation is not new, work on trust in the context of understanding cooperation has significantly multiplied since. Trust as a basis for social order is an established theme in sociology, with Emile Durkheim (2013 [1893]) and Georg Simmel (1990 [1900], 1950) the early pioneers, continued by Niklas Luhmann (1979 [1968]; for surveys of the classical sociological work, see Mistzal 1996 and Möllering 2006). Individual variation in trusting dispositions and its effects was an early theme of psychology (e.g. Rotter 1967, 1971, 1980). But recent work has significantly expanded beyond these disciplines. Perhaps the most impressive fruit is the Russell Sage Foundation series on trust, with sixteen volumes in print, including contributions from both theoretical and empirical perspectives. One area of work that has focused especially heavily on trust is Organizational and Management Studies (see Kramer and Tyler 1996; Bachmann and Zaheer 2006, 2008). Accessible general introductions to the range of work on trust include Kohn (2008) and Hawley (2014); Karen Cook’s excellent annotated bibliography fulfils the same function (2011). One of the few philosophers to be directly inspired by this line of work is Martin Hollis (1998). A first source of interest in the topic of trust, then, are the fundamental questions around the conditions for the possibility of social order, and the roles of morality, sympathy, and rationality in sustaining it. These questions are both philosophical and empirical. It is clear that trust has a more significant role to play in philosophical attempts at answering them than has been appreciated hitherto.

2. Trust and Knowledge

Trust enables knowledge via testimony. This is a second source of interest. C. A. J. Coady’s Testimony: A Philosophical Study (1992) sparked current philosophical interest in the epistemology of testimony. Taking inspiration from Thomas Reid, he defended anti-reductionism about testimony, the conjunctive view that the justification for believing testimonial reports is sui generis in nature, akin to other fundamental sources of belief such as sense perception or memory; and that hearers have a default (p.4) entitlement to believe what they are told. This is in opposition to David Hume’s reductionist view, which denies both conjuncts: the justification for testimony-based belief is inductive, based on past observed correlation between reports that p and it being the case that p or ~p; evidence of such observed correlation is therefore required for justified belief. The basic strategy for classical anti-reductionism is made explicit by the title of the earlier of Reid’s two discussions: ‘Of the analogy between perception, and the credit we give to human testimony’ (Inquiry into the Human Mind, 6.24. Formulated this way, reductionism and anti-reductionism are contraries, not contradictories).

There is something right and something wrong about Reid’s anti-reductionism. ‘She told me so’ is very often a satisfactory defence for why someone believes that p. The default entitlement to believe a report defended by anti-reductionists explains the success of that defence nicely. (A qualified reductionism, which endorses only the inductive justification of testimony-based belief, can endorse the default entitlement; e.g. Adler 2002.) In contrast, and while not certainly false, many epistemologists have nonetheless been unpersuaded by the claimed analogy between testimony and sense perception. As a source of knowledge, testimony constitutively relies on the will of other people, namely testifiers, in a way that sense perception does not. This makes hearers vulnerable to deception. Moreover, there is no shortage of reasons to deceive. So the analogy breaks down at a crucial point. The purely epistemic resources of classical anti-reductionism are ill equipped to explain why speakers choose—as a matter of practical reason—to testify truthfully. As Bernard Williams wryly remarked of a related idea, the broadly transcendental argument Coady offers ‘does not do much to help us understand how these linguistic practices [of assertion] survive the level of abuse which year in and year out they regularly receive’ (2002: 86).

An alternative proposal justifies the acceptance of testimony on the basis of the commitment that the testifier undertakes in asserting p. J. L. Austin provides an early elaboration of the parallel between testifying to one’s knowledge that p and promising. In both, I have ‘bound myself to others… . When I say “I know,” I give others my word: I give others my authority for saying that “S is P” ’ (1961 [1946]: 368). More recently, Richard Moran has made the parallel central to his ‘Assurance view’ of testimony, on which giving testimony—telling someone something—is ‘an overt assumption of specific responsibilities on the part of the speaker. This is no more (or less) mysterious than how an explicit agreement or contract alters one’s responsibilities’ (2006: 288–9). Moran’s Assurance view is an exemplar of a family of related views (see also Ross 1986; Elgin 2002; Hinchman 2005). These are clearly not reductionist. But they differ from classical anti-reductionism in basing the epistemic significance of testimony on practical attitudes that ground and constitute interpersonal relationships. A principal attraction of assurance accounts is that they make sense of the moral and interpersonal phenomenology of testimony, of how it is that the ground for belief is the person testifying and not merely what they have asserted. The phenomenology is well illustrated by contrast with how it feels to be disbelieved. As Elizabeth Anscombe remarks, ‘It is an insult and (p.5) it may be an injury not to be believed’ (1979: 150). In believing someone, I show my respect for them.

Trust is then arguably required as part of an account of how testimony can function to assure. This is so just if—as many find attractive—in felicitous cases of promissory exchange, the appropriate response to a promise made is then trust that the promise will be kept, on the basis of trust in the promise-maker. Insofar as, in the normal case, felicitous testimony relies on the same central social fact, of commitment, so too the appropriate response to testimony given is also trust, manifest in believing a speaker. One account of how this can be rational—of how trust can ground reasonable testimonial uptake—is offered by Paul Faulkner (2011). He proposes that A affectively trusts S if and only if A depends on S φ‎-ing, and expects his dependence on S to motivate S to φ‎—for A’s dependence on S to be the reason for which S φ‎s (2011: 143–50). As a result, affective trust is a bootstrapping attitude: I can choose to trust someone affectively and my doing so creates the reasons which justify the attitude. In believing that you recognize my dependence on you φ‎-ing and presuming that you will take my dependence on your φ‎-ing as a reason to φ‎, so I come to presume that you will φ‎, which in the case of testimony is tell me the truth because I need it. Regardless of the specifics of the account, given the connections between assertion, commitment, and trust, the last must arguably play some role in explaining how we believe speakers and so how we get to know what speakers know. This is unsurprising given that the interrelation—even entanglement—of practical and epistemic reasons found in testimony is found also in the attitude of trust.

3. Trust and Social Philosophy

A third source of interest in trust derives from the disparate areas of philosophical enquiry that are concerned with relations between people. These are predominantly in the domain of practical philosophy. Onora O’Neill has argued prominently for the importance of trusting relations as a valuable state of affairs that should form a basis and goal of public affairs. In bioethics, she proposes trust as an ideal for patient–physician relations, in contrast to that of promoting individual autonomy, and argues that efforts to achieve the latter have undermined the former (2002a). Trust should not be traded off in this way. Her concern that unreflective pursuit of other ideals may have a similar undermining effect is also evident in her Reith Lectures on trust and public life, where she surveys the loss of trust in professions and institutions in the UK (2002b). The paradox is that regimes of accountability that aim at increasing trustworthiness have the effect of undermining trust. O’Neill’s work well illustrates a general question, which likely permits only a series of piecemeal answers: for any area of applied ethics, to what extent is trust a valuable ideal or goal? A smorgasbord of contemporary areas where the question iterates includes banking; policing and the law; politics and politicians; technologies such as the Internet, robotics, genetic modification, and artificial (p.6) intelligence; international relations; government and corporate surveillance; and other undeclared security-related operations.

Many of these are specific, modern instances of established concerns from early modern political philosophy, on which trust is a condition for and consequence of legitimate government. The absoluteness of Hobbes’ sovereign invited the Lockean question: why obey it? Hobbes’ proposal is subtler than the sovereign’s bald threat of massive coercive violence. The threat is authorized by the people as a device for escaping the state of nature, by which a plurality of wills are united to ‘a real Unity’ (Leviathan, §17). The subject should obey the sovereign because, in being so authorized, the sovereign’s will is her own. Locke’s dissatisfaction with this answer and his alternative have been the more influential. Whereas Hobbes merely predicts, as a descriptive matter, that the sovereign will act in the interests of its subjects, for Locke this is a normative requirement. The legislative should design laws for the good of the people. It holds power in ‘fiduciary trust’. Success in protecting citizens’ natural rights, especially preservation of property, is thus a condition of legitimate government. So fulfilment of trust is a political requirement for legitimacy; it is a consequence that governments should have the powers needed to exercise that trust. Locke’s account of the relationship between the governed and government as one of trust makes clear the basic ownership and purpose of power—it is exercised on behalf of those governed. A different part of the liberal tradition focuses on the appropriate attitude of the governed towards those in power. The frailties of human nature, the risks of abuse of power, and the temptations and opportunities to do so mean that the default attitude should be distrust (e.g. Hardin 2002). How these claims are to be reconciled, or indeed their soundness, is of course a further matter.

Trust is politically significant not only in relation to legitimacy. It is significant also for stability. The object of Rawls’ concern for stability was conceptions of justice. Specifically, a conception of justice must generate its own support among those who live in a society whose basic structure is so marked, so that they desire to live in accordance with its principles (Theory of Justice, §24). The condition is a demanding one, ruling out utopian conceptions of justice that cannot command support from people as they actually are. A consequence of the demand is that, insofar as cooperation outside the shadow of violence is sustained by trust, so those factors that undermine or support trust empirically become normatively significant. This is one of the foci in the debate on the ethics of immigration (Miller 1995; Pevnick 2009). But the issue reiterates more widely. Both conservative and socialist critics of neo-liberal capitalism have argued that the dominance of the market as means of exchange undermines the conditions that make market exchange possible in the first place. It does so by weakening or eliminating the sympathetic bonds of trust fostered by non-transactional interaction and which undergird the market. (Bowles 2011 provides critical discussion of the objection; Hirsch 1977 is an example.)

Trust is also significant in non-practical areas of philosophy. As examples, consider the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of action. Two central and related (p.7) concerns in the philosophy of religion are evaluating the justificatory status of belief in God and identifying the attitude of faith. It is plausible that trust answers both. Belief in God may be based on acceptance of testimony. The relation between believer and God, at least for the first, is characteristically one of trust. (Discussion of the former possibility is young, but see e.g. Lamont 2009; Dougherty 2014; Simpson 2014; and on the latter, Swinburne 2005; Godfrey 2012; Kvanvig 2016). In the philosophy of action, trust is plausibly a constitutive requirement on shared agency. Further, a precondition by which group agents are characteristically formed may likewise be trust. Moreover, this survey of areas of philosophy where trust is important is illustrative, not exhaustive.

4. Chapter Summary

Victoria McGeer and Philip Pettit begin the papers in Chapter 2 with ‘The Empowering Theory of Trust’. It is commonly held that both trust and reliance involve dependence. Trust differs from reliance, according to McGeer and Pettit, because it involves the expectation that the trusted will see a trusting party’s dependence as a reason to do what the trusting party expects. Others in this volume also emphasize that trust involves this expectation, particularly Darwall, Jones, Faulkner, and Stern. McGeer and Pettit argue that by displaying the expectation that a trusted party will be sensitive to their reliance, a trusting party can increase that very sensitivity in two distinct ways. They can make it the case in a given context that the trusted party is more reliably sensitive to their dependence: that is, disposed to respond appropriately under more possible variations on the situation. And even if that trusted party’s sensitivity is already totally reliable, they can make it the case that it is more resiliently in place: it is less subject to being inhibited or undermined by disrupting influences. That is to say, trust can empower the trusted. In a variety of contexts and relationships, trusting someone can thereby enable them to live up to the expectations we invest in them. It can elicit the very trait that makes it sensible for us to give them our trust.

The idea that trust involves some expectation that the trusted will respond positively to one’s reliance then suggests to Stephen Darwall in Chapter 3 that trust is a second-personal attitude. However, paradigm second-personal attitudes are deontic: they presuppose authority and accountability relations. Consider how one might blame or resent someone who broke a promise: the promise relation gives the promisee the authority to hold the promisor accountable for doing what they promised to do; and it is this authority and the associated accountability relation that is presupposed by the attitudes of blame and resentment that the promisee would be susceptible to were the promisor not to do this. By contrast, trusting someone to do something involves laying oneself open. One doesn’t have any authority over the trusted and cannot hold them accountable for doing what one trusts them to do. So trust is non-deontic. But it is second-personal in that it is similarly reciprocating: it invites the other to take the same (p.8) view of the situation. This is not an invitation to recognize authority, but an invitation to recognize the trust and respond in kind, trustworthily. So trust, Darwall argues, is comparable to love: it is a second-personal ‘attitude of the heart’.

Edward Hinchman also takes up the idea that trust involves some expectation that the trusted will respond positively to one’s dependence in Chapter 4. Trust, he suggests, involves a Gricean form of mutual recognition: in inviting trust, the trusted can give the trusting a reason for action or belief grounded, in part, in the trusting’s recognition of the trusted’s intention to give this reason. What Hinchman emphasizes are two things: that the trust relation is thereby, at heart, a rational relation; and that trust can thereby both be betrayed without being disappointed and be disappointed without being betrayed. These possibilities reflect how the reasons made available through a trust relation are grounded not merely in the trusted’s reliability but also in the trusted’s responsiveness to relevant need.

The betrayal of trust is also central to Collin O’Neil’s paper in Chapter 5, where he gives an analysis of betrayal and the form of trust that can be betrayed. On O’Neil’s account, a betrayal of trust should be understood as the violation of a certain trust-based obligation, just as a betrayal of loyalty is naturally understood as the violation of a certain relationship-based obligation. Trust itself can give the trusted an obligation to do what they are trusted to do because it is a form of honour, and here O’Neil echoes McGeer and Pettit. Once there is such an obligation there can be a failure to act on it; so trust can be betrayed, where this then constitutes a unique wronging of the trusted party.

Supposing trust were betrayed, one form of complaint would be ‘But I was counting on you!’ The aim of Karen Jones’ paper in Chapter 6 is to understand the normative status of this complaint. Jones offers a ‘counting on’ theory of trust, so the complaint she investigates might also be voiced as ‘But I was trusting you!’ According to Jones’ theory, the constitutive expectation of trust is that the trusted will respond positively to the fact that the trusting party is counting on them—or depending on them in some way. In expecting a trusted party to act for this reason, trust is a way of ‘extending our agency’, which is to say achieving the goods of cooperative agency. It follows that the normative force of the complaint is not moral—we can cooperate in doing immoral things—but that the norms specific to trust have been flouted. Our commitment to these norms is then grounded in our interest in living cooperative social lives.

It is the problem of the rationality of cooperation that is at the centre of Paul Faulkner’s chapter. Cooperation threatens to become rationally problematic insofar as the following conditions hold: reliance has a worst outcome—we rely and the other proves unreliable; the interaction is one-off; and we are ignorant of the other’s particular motivations but recognize a general motivation to be unreliable. The problem, Faulkner argues in Chapter 7, is that the satisfaction of these conditions is commonplace. Thus cooperation should be much less common than it in fact is. So what explains it? Faulkner considers and rejects various game-theoretical solutions before (p.9) canvassing a ‘trust-based’ solution. According to this solution the problem is dissolved once one recognizes how trust itself can give reasons for cooperating.

While a simple trust game—the Trust game—is central to Faulkner’s chapter, another—the Hi-Lo game—is central to Bernd Lahno’s. In Chapter 8 we are to imagine two canoeists being swept towards a rock: it is imperative that they both steer either left or right, with the right course looking marginally safer. For Lahno this coordination problem illustrates the paucity of individual game-theoretical reasoning since each will only have a conditional preference: to steer right if the other does, and otherwise to steer left. And on this basis it is impossible to explain coordination. This theoretical problem is easily solved if teams are added as possible agents and the canoeists are taken to be a team since the team will unconditionally favour the right path. However, making sense of team reasoning, Lahno argues, presupposes that trusting relations structure the team, which in turn presupposes a background of trust. Thus it turns out that the resolution of a basic coordination problem requires a background of trust. So Lahno and Faulkner follow parallel argumentative trajectories to similar conclusions.

The background attitude of trust that Faulkner takes to explain cooperation is two-place (‘A trusts B’) rather than three-place (‘A trusts B to φ‎’). It is the two-place form, Jacapo Domenicucci and Richard Holton argue in Chapter 9, that is the basic form of trust; and in arguing this they break with the tradition, which concentrates exclusively on its three-place form. In this respect, trust is like love or friendship; one would not, they observe, understand Antony’s love for Cleopatra in terms of the three-place ‘Antony loves Cleopatra for her ϕ‎’. Ditto trust. The two-place relation—our trusting someone—ordinarily grounds instances of relying on them in some way, so it ordinarily grounds three-place trust. But there can be trust when there is no opportunity of reliance. Trust is thus essentially a readiness to hand over control or power to another, which is associated with the reactive attitudes.

Handing over control, like handing over a set of car keys, is, one would think, something you can decide to do. But that one can decide to trust is something Benjamin McMyler takes issue with in Chapter 10. Action can be willed—one can decide to act—just because one can act for any reason, be it good or bad. So one can decide to act in a trusting way—to act as if one trusted. But one cannot decide to trust in the way that one can decide to act because one can only trust for certain kinds of reason. In this respect, McMyler argues, trust is like belief. One cannot believe that p for any reason. A bribe and a threat can be reasons for acting, so each can be a reason for pretending one believes, but neither can be a reason for belief. Only certain things—paradigmatically evidence—can be a reason for belief, and for this reason one cannot decide to believe. And the same is true, McMyler claims, for trust. One can trust only if one has reasons for thinking that the trusted is worthy of trust. So one cannot trust at will.

McMyler doesn’t commit an answer to the question, what is a reason for thinking the trusted is worthy of trust? With a significant qualification, Thomas Simpson does in Chapter 11. Thus he argues for the following ‘evidentialist constraint’ on trust: it is rational for A to trust B to φ‎ only if, on A’s total evidence, it is likely that B will φ‎. For (p.10) instance, on an expedition to the Antarctic whose success required a supply drop, it would be rational to trust the supplier only if one’s total evidence made it likely they would successfully execute the drop. The significant qualifier is that while trust in this case is cognitive—amounting to the belief that the supplier is trustworthy—not all instances of trust are cognitive. ‘Trust’ is equivocal, and there are, Simpson credits, richer notions of trust like those in play in the previously considered chapters. On those occasions when the evidential constraint then applies, agents can or should refuse moral demands to trust which are unsupported by the evidence.

Whether such richer notions should be recognized is a debate opened by the next two chapters. A seeming advantage of aligning trust with the belief that the trusted is trustworthy—or at least will prove so on this occasion—is that trust can thereby easily explain cooperation. That trust should be able to do this, Philip Nickel proposes as a methodological constraint on theorizing about trust in Chapter 12. The satisfaction of this constraint can then be used to differentiate theories of trust with the better theories being able to explain cooperation more generally and effectively. Reasoning thus, Nickel argues for the superiority of what he terms unrestricted views of trust, which take trust to be no more than the disposition to rely on others, over restrictive views, which require the trusting person to have some further attitude in addition to this disposition. The same criterion also favours some restrictive views over others.

David Owens goes one step further than Nickel in Chapter 13: it is not merely that restrictive views of trust are to be rejected for methodological reasons; rather they should be rejected because there is no unique attitude of trust. What gets counted as trusting depends on the nature of the object of trust. Owens illustrates this by reference to trust in a promise. Conceive promises as a vehicle of social coordination and acts of reliance count as trusting. (As Nickel observes, it is the explanation of such acts that matters.) But conceive promises as a vehicle for cultivating normative relationships and acts of acceptance can be sufficient and so can count as trusting, and actual reliance is not necessary. What counts as trusting a promise, Owens argues, hinges on what one takes the distinctive value of a promise to be, and a ‘trusting’ action or attitude is one that realizes this distinctive value. Thus trusting someone’s promises, their assertions, their judgement, and so on may well involve quite different actions or attitudes.

We can expect others to be trustworthy and value their being so. This is true even if there is no single thing referred to by ‘trust’ and ‘trustworthiness’. But what about groups? Can groups be trustworthy in the way that individuals can? Implicit in Lahno’s talk of team reasoning is the idea that a team can be trustworthy. Katherine Hawley takes issue with this in Chapter 14. Her focus is group testimony. It is possible to distinguish mere reliability from trustworthiness with respect to individual testifiers—a liar could, despite their intentions, be reliable. And it is equally possible to make this distinction at the group level. The question Hawley pursues is then whether we should make this distinction at the level of group testimony. Hawley proposes not: when we consider group testimony, all that matters is a group’s reliability. She then considers, and counters, several arguments, both epistemological and ethical, to this view.

(p.11) The last two chapters take up philosophical issues of trust from a historical perspective, investigating what Kant and Løgstrup had to say about trust. Can it ever be reasonable to trust someone without evidence of their trustworthiness? In Chapter 15, Guy Longworth defends a positive answer to this question based on Kant’s idea that we can have practical reasons for holding things to be true. So we can have practical reasons for holding true that someone is trustworthy, and so for trusting them. The obvious worry here is that rationally holding something to be true would seem to require rationally believing this thing to be true. However, Longworth rejects this requirement on the basis of an account of deciding to do something. In deciding to φ‎, one holds true that one will φ‎ but the rationality of this is not that of belief: it is one’s will that constrains one’s holding true and not the evidence. So it is the practical rationality of operating under this self-imposed constraint that determines the rationality of holding true that one will φ‎. Thus the way is clear to allowing that one can trust and be reasonable solely on the basis of practical reasons. In drawing this conclusion Longworth takes issue with McMyler’s claim that trust cannot be voluntary.

In Chapter 16, Robert Stern investigates Løgstrup’s claim that trust is basic. There are, Stern suggests, four plausible interpretations of this: (1) a psychological interpretation (children start out with a trusting attitude and learn to distrust); (2) a transcendental interpretation (trust is a necessary condition of language and society, so must be the default attitude); (3) an axiological interpretation (trust is an intrinsic good while distrust is a privation); (4) an ontological interpretation (trust is essential to the proper functioning of human life itself, and as such cannot be a norm or practice we have instituted for ourselves). All four claims can be found in Løgstrup but it is the last two, Stern claims, which best represent his view. On this interpretation, trust is to distrust as health is to sickness. Being healthy is a basic human good, one that needs no justification; so too trust. As a human good it is realized in and by an openness to others. By contrast, to distrust someone is to conceive of them in a way that limits them and closes one’s relation to them. In this respect, trust is comparable to love and sympathy and is what Løgstrup calls a ‘sovereign expression of life’.1

References

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Notes:

(1) We are grateful to the Mind Association, for a grant which helped to support the workshop at which a number of these essays were presented while in early draft; and to Peter Momtchiloff, OUP, for his support for the volume