Betraying Trust

In Paul Faulkner & Thomas W. Simpson (eds.), The Philosophy of Trust. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 70-89 (2017)
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Trust not only disposes us to feel betrayed, trust can be betrayed. Understanding what a betrayal of trust is requires understanding how trust can ground an obligation on the part of the trusted person to act specifically as trusted. This essay argues that, since trust cannot ground an appropriate obligation where there is no prior obligation, a betrayal of trust should instead be conceived as the violation of a trust-based obligation to respect an already existing obligation. Two forms of trust are evaluated for their potential to ground such a second-order obligation. One form counts as a gift to the trusted person only because it does not involve an expectation of trustworthiness; the other form cannot count as a gift but confers an honor because it does include an expectation of trustworthiness. Only trust that confers an honor generates a second-order obligation whose violation would be a betrayal of trust.
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