Trust Papers #2 – Annette Baier – Trust and Anti-Trust

Annette Baier’s 1986 article, “Trust and Anti-Trust” (no abstract!) is probably the seminal article on trust in contemporary philosophical ethics. It outlines some key features of trust, especially the idea that trust is distinct from mere reliance, and that trust is unique in that it can be betrayed, whereas reliance can merely be disappointed (235). One reason this insight matters is that it shows that our practices of trust and trustworthiness are usually tied to moral behavior. We trust people to following certain kinds of moral norms and rules, such that we feel resentment and indignation and pain when that trust is violated, over and above the cost we pay when the trustee do not help us reach a goal or satisfy a desire. For Baier, the relationship between trust and morality runs even deeper, since she argues (in a later piece referenced here) that trust “is the very basis of morality.” In my own work on trust, the association between trust and moral norms is essential for figuring out how trust is maintained.

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