The Philosophy of Trust

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. So trust underpins both epistemic and practical cooperation and is key to philosophical debates on the conditions of its possibility. It is difficult to overstate the significance of these issues. On the practical side, discussions of cooperation address what makes society possible-of how it is that life is not a Hobbesian war of all against all. On the epistemic side, discussions of cooperation address what makes the pooling of knowledge possible-and so the edifice that is science. But trust is not merely central to our lives instrumentally; trusting relations are themselves of great value, and in trusting others, we realise distinctive forms of value. What are these forms of value, and how is trust central to our lives? These questions are explored and developed in this volume, which collects fifteen new essays on the philosophy of trust. They develop and extend existing philosophical discussion of trust and will provide a reference point for future work on trust.


Posted in Philosophy, Trust | Tagged ,

Trust, Ethics and Human Reason

Olli Lagerspetz’s book has two stated aims: “to present a general outline of the philosophical trust debate” (5) and “to develop a view that does justice to interpersonal dependence and trust as central aspects of reason itself” (5). To the first end the book’s seven chapters discuss various issues that have been raised in the philosophical debate on trust, which include the analysis of trust, the place of trust in accounts of cooperation, including game-theoretical conceptions of this, the social place of generalized or basic trust, and the role of trust in the epistemology of testimony. With respect to the second end, there is no chapter devoted to presenting Lagerspetz’s positive view, rather this view simply emerges from his criticism of the existing debate. For this reader, at least, this is unfortunate because what gives this book its interest and value is Lagerspetz’s positive view, which is both original and philosophically interesting. So let me start this review by trying to crystallize the positive view that I think emerges from Lagerspetz’s objections.


Read also: Book

Posted in ethics, Philosophy, Reason, Trust | Tagged , , ,

Marx and Wittgenstein: Knowledge, Morality and Politics

What, the reader of this review may well wonder, is the point of a collection of essays connecting Marx and Wittgenstein? After all, “it is possible to take almost any two thinkers of genuine insight and sophistication and to find some parallels and commonalities in their thought. Indeed, doing so is one of the favourite intellectual pastimes of all academics.” Indeed, one could legitimately ask whether “any two thinkers have less in common than Karl Marx and Ludwig Wittgenstein.” Consider, for a moment, the case for the prosecution. On the one hand we have Marx, political activist and economic theorist, the founder of the ’science’ of ’historical materialism,’ whose Theses on Feuerbach proclaim that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the thing however is to change it.” On the other, Wittgenstein, a philosopher who “showed virtually no interest in conventional political activity,” famous for writing that “philosophy … leaves everything as it is” and who asked himself “who knows the laws by which society evolves?” only to answer “I am sure they are a closed book to the cleverest of men.”


Posted in knowledge, Marx, Morality, Politics, Wittgenstein | Tagged , , , ,

Morality and the Emotions

Philosophers of mind have been paying increasing attention to the emotions over the past thirty years, and this work inspires and is inspired by developments in ethics. Morality and the emotions seem bound up with one another, but how should we understand the connection? One question that has divided thinkers is whether to see emotions as hindering or enabling our engagement with morality. Answers to this question are likely to depend on one’s conception of the emotions, and one’s conception of morality, particularly whether one is a cognitivist or non-cognitivist about either or both. This volume comprises new work from philosophers who by and large affirm the important role of the emotions in moral experience, but represent varying traditions ranging from the Humean, through the Kantian to the phenomenological. It also ranges over the role of the emotions in areas such as moral motivation, moral epistemology, identity and moral responsibility. As such it presents a good overview of the fertile work being done in this area at the present time and will be an important resource for those working on the topic.


Posted in Emotions, Morality | Tagged ,

The Evolution of Morality

Is morality innate? If it is, what difference does that make? A reader wishing to become clearer about these questions would be hard-pressed to find a better place to begin than Richard Joyce’s The Evolution of Morality. In a text that, exclusive of notes and bibliography, runs to only 230 pages, he has managed to pack a remarkable amount of information, clarification, common sense, and thoughtful reflection. As the topic requires, Joyce draws on a wide range of research in animal behavior, anthropology, game theory, psychology, and neurophysiology, and he presents it all in a readable style with the occasional witticism thrown in.


Posted in Morality, Philosophy | Tagged ,

Empathy and Morality

Having the ability to empathize with another person seems to be a good thing, even a morally good thing. If asked to choose between two worlds distinguished only in respect to the existence of empathy among humans, most of us would probably choose the one where empathy exists. In light of those intuitions, which we assume to be widely shared, it seems to be rather surprising that within the Western philosophical tradition empathy as the focus of a sustained intellectual debate has existed only since the 18th century when moral sentimentalists like David Hume and Adam Smith argued for the centrality of empathy, or what they then called sympathy, in constituting moral agency. Their appreciation for empathy within the moral domain has, however, not been universally shared. More recently, even philosophers sympathetic to the sentimentalist project have voiced their skepticism in this respect (Prinz 2011a and b). For them, empathy’s positive reputation within the moral domain is highly overrated, particularly in light of the results of decade-long empirical research on the relationship between empathy and moral phenomena.


Posted in Empathy, Morality, Philosophy | Tagged , ,

Inside Ethics: On the Demands of Moral Thought

Alice Crary presents a deep challenge to certain widely shared assumptions about the nature and limits of ethical thought, along with a compelling invitation to think differently about the moral status and qualities of humans and animals. Most contemporary ethicists assume that any objective representation of human and animal life must be developed outside of ethics, using the normatively neutral methods of, for example, the natural sciences. Crary, in contrast, argues that humans and animals have empirically observable moral characteristics, recognition of which is crucial to moral thought, but which are inaccessible to us when we limit ourselves to neutral methods. Good, “world-guided” moral thought, according to Crary, requires the use of capacities such as moral imagination, the exercise of which is elicited by methods (including various narrative techniques) that are characteristic of the arts and humanities. Works employing such methods contribute directly to moral understanding by drawing us into the imaginative exploration of other moral perspectives.


Posted in ethics, Morals | Tagged ,

Ethics After Aristotle

This short but illuminating book opens the door on a little-known strand in Greek and Roman philosophy, Aristotelian ethics between Aristotle’s successor, Theophrastus (late fourth century BC) and the great Aristotelian commentator, Alexander of Aphrodisias (second/third century AD). The evidence for this topic is either indirect (especially in the Hellenistic period) or based on sources that raise difficult exegetical as well as interpretative questions. Recent scholarly work has gone some way to making this material more widely available, notably in Robert Sharples’ 2010 translation of sources for Peripatetic philosophy (200 BC-200 AD) and the essays on Peripatetic thought in the 2007 two-volume survey of ancient philosophy (100 BC-200 AD) edited by Sharples and Richard Sorabji.


Posted in Aristotle, ethics, Philosophy | Tagged , ,

Responsible Belief: A Theory in Ethics and Epistemology

Rik Peels provides a comprehensive, original account of intellectual duties, doxastic blameworthiness, and responsible belief. The discussions, relating to work in epistemology as well as moral responsibility, are clear and often provide useful entries into the literature. Though I disagree with some of the main conclusions, the arguments are carefully laid out and typically merit a good amount of thought, even where one remains unconvinced. After providing an overview of the contents, I will specifically suggest that Peels’ theory fails to account for one important kind of doxastic obligation and doxastic blame.


Posted in Epistemology, ethics, Philosophy | Tagged , ,

Philosophy for Business Students

Business schools are one of the more unusual locations to find philosophers, and yet there are quite a few business schools that do integrate philosophy into the curriculum beyond Business Ethics. London Business School runs a “Nobel Thinking” course, Copenhagen Business School offers a Master of Science in Business Administration and Philosophy, Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Australia’s philosophy-based “Foundations of Management Thought” is a core MBA course, and the University of Oxford offers the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) undergraduate degree. Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and Duke also offer similar programs.


Posted in Philosophy | Tagged ,