Linguistic Trust


In conversation we trust others to communicate successfully, to understand us, etc. because they have the adequate skills to be competent in the linguistic domain. In other words, to be trustworthy regarding an activity is nothing but to have the appropriate skills required for the activity. In the linguistic case, this means that being trustworthy regarding conversation is nothing but to have the capacity of partaking as a responsible participant in linguistic conversation, which requires having the appropriate linguistic skills. Now, to trust someone in conversation one better know that the person one trusts is trustworthy in the relevant sense, that is, one need to know that she has the relevant linguistic skills. Thus, in order to maintain mutual trust, participants in conversation must track not so much the linguistic successes of other participants, but their linguistic skills, i.e. they must be able to trace their successes to the agent and not to external circumstances. But lucky successes do not manifest skill and therefore show no evidence of the true capacities of performers and, therefore, are useless for building trust. This is as much true in the linguistic realm as outside of it. We care about successes because they provide us with defeasible evidence of skills, but this evidence is defeated if such successes cannot be attributed to the agent, but are instead the product of lucky. Therefore, if we care about trust, that is, if we care about agents and their skills, we need to be wary of lucky successes.

Author's Profile

Axel Barceló
Institute Of Philosophy, Mexico


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