Is Trust Justified in Philosophy?


Trust is a complex issue in philosophy. There is comparatively little settled agreement among philosophers on what trust is or what its features are, but many agree that it can be either instrumental or morally valuable and that the value it has depends on how well it is warranted. Whether trust is justified is a matter of how trustworthy the person or institution is and how well-grounded the reasons for trusting them are, and it can also depend on whether this person has an incentive to do the right thing.

Some philosophers argue that for a person to trust someone, the latter must have some level of competence and willingness to do what is expected. This is called a principle of sufficient reason. Others disagree about this, and they also differ on the extent to which one needs to have access to these reasons in order to rationally trust someone.

Despite these differences, most philosophers agree that some form of trust is rational. They may disagree about whether or not it is “truth-directed” or “end-directed”, and they tend to agree that there are certain kinds of things that must accompany trust for it to be justified (as mentioned above). These include the goods that can benefit the person who is being trusted, the trustee, or society in general.

There is much discussion about these goods, but some philosophers argue that they are in fact not sufficient to justify a given act of trust. For example, some people who want to argue that therapeutic trust is rational claim that the patient must be able to explain why they should be trusted. Others argue that this is not possible because of the nature of therapeutic relationships and the ways in which they are characterized.

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