Humble trust

Philosophical Studies 176 (4):933-953 (2019)
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I challenge the common view that trust is characteristically risky compared to distrust by drawing attention to the moral and epistemic risks of distrust. Distrust that is based in real fear yet fails to target ill will, lack of integrity, or incompetence, serves to marginalize and exclude individuals who have done nothing that would justify their marginalization or exclusion. I begin with a characterization of the suite of behaviors characteristic of trust and distrust. I then survey the epistemic and moral hazards of distrust, in particular, distrust’s propensity to bias interpretation, to perpetuate itself, to confirm itself, to dishonor, and to insult. Taking seriously these moral and epistemic hazards requires taking affirmative measures to respond to them. I elaborate one such response: “humble trust”. The practice of humble trust issues from skepticism about the warrant of one’s own felt attitudes of trust and distrust, curiosity about who might be unexpectedly responsive to trust and in which contexts, and commitment to abjure and to avoid distrust of the trustworthy. Humble trust enables individuals to trust that they will be trusted.



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Jason D'Cruz
State University of New York, Albany