Exploitative Epistemic Trust

In Trust in Epistemology. New York City, New York, Vereinigte Staaten: pp. 241-264 (2020)
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Where there is trust, there is also vulnerability, and vulnerability can be exploited. Epistemic trust is no exception. This chapter maps the phenomenon of the exploitation of epistemic trust. I start with a discussion of how trust in general can be exploited; a key observation is that trust incurs vulnerabilities not just for the party doing the trusting, but also for the trustee (after all, trust can be burdensome), so either party can exploit the other. I apply these considerations to epistemic trust, specifically in testimonial relationships. There, we standardly think of a hearer trusting a speaker. But we miss an important aspect of this relationship unless we consider too that the speaker standardly trusts the hearer. Given this mutual trust, and given that both trustees and trusters can exploit each other, we have four possibilities for exploitation in epistemic-trust relationships: a speaker exploiting a hearer (a) by accepting his trust or (b) by imposing her trust on him, and a hearer exploiting a speaker (c) by accepting her trust or (d) by imposing his trust on her. One result is that you do not need to betray someone to exploit him – you can exploit him just as easily by doing what he trusts you for.

Author's Profile

Katherine Dormandy
University of Innsbruck


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