Trust (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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2024-07-07 16:30:08

Trust is important, but it is also dangerous. It is important because it allows us to depend on others—for love, for advice, for help with our plumbing, or what have you—especially when we know that no outside force compels them to give us these things. But trust also involves the risk that people we trust will not pull through for us, for if there were some guarantee they would pull through, then we would have no need to trust them.[1] Trust is therefore dangerous. What we risk while trusting is the loss of valuable things that we entrust to others, including our self-respect perhaps, which can be shattered by the betrayal of our trust.

Because trust is risky, the question of when it is warranted is of particular importance. In this context, “warranted” means justified or well-grounded meaning, respectively, that the trust is rational (e.g., it is based on good evidence) or that it successfully targets a trustworthy person. If trust is warranted in these senses, then the danger of it is either minimized as with justified trust or eliminated altogether as with well-grounded trust. Leaving the danger of trust aside, one could also ask whether trust is warranted in the sense of being plausible. Trust may not be warranted in a particular situation because it is simply not plausible; the conditions necessary for it do not exist, as is the case when people feel only antagonism toward one another. This entry on trust is framed as a response to the general question of when trust is warranted, where “warranted” is broadly construed to include “justified”, “well-grounded” and “plausible”.

A complete philosophical answer to this question must explore the various philosophical dimensions of trust, including the conceptual nature of trust and trustworthiness, the epistemology of trust, the value of trust, and the kind of mental attitude trust is. To illustrate how each of these matters is relevant, note that trust is warranted, that is,

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