Trust and Mistrust

Monday, September 26, 2016 -- 5:00 PM
John Perry

Trust is one pattern of reliance, where the trusting person, or trustor, can’t control what the trusted person, or trustee, does, and may not even know what the trustee does at the time he does it, but plans on the trustee doing one thing rather than another. This pattern of reliance is no doubt essential to social life.

But is it rational?  Does trust really amount to being stupid, or helpless, or both?

Well think of that old Russian Proverb President Reagan liked to repeat: “Trust, but verify”.  Meaning: if the trustor trusts the trustee to do a certain action, then the trustor should verify, that is, find some guarantee, that the trustee will come through. If Gorbachev told Reagan that he was going to disarm a hundred missiles, it would be very civilized of Reagan to trust him.  But he’d be remiss if he didn’t insist on verifying that Gorbachev does what he says he’ll do.

But then aren’t we saying, Reagan shouldn’t trust Gorbachev? Isn’t the proverb just an ironic way of saying, “Don’t trust, but verify instead.”  If you need a guarantee, you’re not trusting. To trust someone to do something, is to rely on them to do that thing, without having any guarantees.

But then, isn't trusting just being stupid or helpless or both?

Even so, we often have no choice but to trust. We’re forced to count on others all the time. “Trust” is just what we call this kind of helpless dependence on others. The newborn trusts its mother to provide care and nutrition. I trust PG&E or Con Ed to supply electricity 24/7. I trust Shell or BP to provide gasoline that won’t make my car blow up.  But I’ve got no way to make sure anyone will actually do what I count on them to do. So we say I “trust” them.  

But perhaps I'm missing something. Trust isn’t expectation with no guarantee. It’s expectation with a certain sort of guarantee. The sort of guarantee one gets with a promise, for example. The trustor relies on the trustee to be trustworthy. To live up to her word.

But can’t we trust someone we don’t believe is trustworthy? Ferris Bueller’s folks trusted him to behave responsibly. But did they really believe he would?  

Trusting those who are not trustworthy, however, seems to me a risk we often have to take. Trusting where we cannot verify also is a risk we often have to take. Long after we cease being helpless babes, we remain relatively helpless adults, compared to the large institutions and structures on which our life depends.  

 

  

Comments (14)


philosopher29's picture

philosopher29

Thursday, January 2, 2014 -- 4:00 PM

Trust is an important issue

Trust is an important issue in political philosophy. Plato's political philosophy is founded on mistrust. It is the common people--the producers and the auxiliaries--who, when given power, commit such atrocities as executing Socrates. That is why Plato demands that only the guardians, those who have real insight into the nature of reality, should be given power. 
Government itself is emblematic of mistrust between people. Why do we need laws if no one is going to break them? Adam Smith made the brilliant move of getting us to trust, ironically enough, in other people's untrustworthiness. It is the selfishness of people in capitalism that makes for a thriving economy. 

alt.phaytalist's picture

alt.phaytalist

Thursday, January 2, 2014 -- 4:00 PM

I would argue that it is the

I would argue that it is the contract, not the invisible hand of Adam Smith, that makes for a thriving economy.
Contracts are a layer of "guarantees" against mistrust. Where there is a contract, there is recourse through a court or judicial system (and that court's judgments are made real by enforcement/penury components). Many believe that the only reason the United States succeeded as a free market was because we became a society of contracts (that included recourse against those who dishonor their contracts). Human nature is not trustworthy by any stretch of the imagination. It is naive to believe so. When no one is looking, 99.9% of our species will do the wrong thing. In addition, strong or large businesses will always attempt to crush smaller, weaker businesses in their categories. 
Contracts are a key remedy to this. They give a free market its life and dynamism. They reduce risk of loss and encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop new goods and services without fear of being crushed or having their secrets stolen through espionage, or outright piracy. If we didn't have contracts and courts we would end up with four global companies: Disney, Apple, Bank of America, Facebook and Google. The outcome of that would be much less innovation and positive change. This is why we have contracts, courts, regulation and oversight. Without them, the Big 4 companies listed above (or any four substitutes of your choosing) would dominate the landscape and set the market's agenda, killing its creativity and dynamism.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 -- 4:00 PM

Everyone needs money. I do

Everyone needs money. I do not have any to spare, ergo, I guess you do not need my comments or participation on your blog. Tell Laura I love her, and best of luck {moral, or otherwise] to you all. HGN, O & O.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 -- 4:00 PM

Everyone needs money. I do

Everyone needs money. I do not have any to spare, ergo, I guess you do not need my comments or participation on your blog. Tell Laura I love her, and best of luck {moral, or otherwise] to you all. HGN, O & O.

Robert Hennecke's picture

Robert Hennecke

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 -- 4:00 PM

Regarding trust, what of the

Regarding trust, what of the philosophical quandary as a result of a social worker that had family impacted by the third Reich and could not resist the urge to extract revenge on my mother who was a German national and then went out of her way to make sure that I was placed in the worst homes she could find. the second home was good and they wanted to adopt but at 6 1/2 they were informed it wasn't possible as my mother hadn't signed the authorization forms. The agency..Ville Marie, now called Batshaw youth protection. It was a lie as she had signed the papers a month after my birth. I would then be placed in a hostile family in a very rough district that had a materially negative impact on my future. The irony is that the reason I was up for grabs in the first place was that my real father had been wounded in WW2 fighting for Canada. He met my mother postwar in Canada. His wound prevented his ability to work regularly thus low income and their thinking it best I be adopted. They didn't bank on a vengeful Zionist child welfare agency.

mirugai's picture

mirugai

Saturday, October 1, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

THE GLUE OF SOCIAL LIFE

THE GLUE OF SOCIAL LIFE
The very entertaining discussion of trust today illustrated the many meanings of the word, and it is typical of these discussions that when too many contradictory definitions pop up, it is not the word itself that is the only casualty of the discussion, but the practice of ?definitional philosophy? is the greater casualty.
John?s ?glue of social life? is the real subject to explore, and it was indirectly in the ?trust? exploration. The central question is why do we make up trust when there isn?t any? Why do we want to trust? Why do we need to trust? Glue.
 A reminder: ?arbitrary? is a dangerous term; it is used too often to assert the truth of some proposition that has not been proven. Saying something is ?arbitrary? doesn?t make it arbitrary. An anthropologist friend told me ?Prejudices are ideas that are not based on experience. Don?t confuse prejudice with ideas based on experience.? Or ideas based on a need for glue.  

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, October 2, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Well, this article describes

Well, this article describes about the difference in between, trust and mistrust. Trust is basically a word with deep meaning, we can emotionally share our feelings with others on the base of trust, it is an emotional attachment two people in a single bond, therefore it is really important for us. Thanks for such a wonderful article, we can get the exact meaning of trust and mistrust from here and hope we are also improving our emotional intelligence.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, October 2, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

In the 38' World's Fair, in

In the 38' World's Fair, in Chicago, I think, there were futurist displays of the city. People were dazzled by the huge highways with traffic that moved about with mechanical precision, like clockwork, at a time when there were no highways at all. But now the highways are all an actuality, and soon the clockwork precision will too, except for those still human operators, dangerously scooting around the clockwork mice our cars are soon to become, who still hope to get where they are going on time. Trust? Isn't it amazing how quickly the crazy and frenzied 'equality' of internet startups degenerated into just another sector of monopolist mega-corporations? I think a fundamental law needs to be instituted before this nightmare grips our world insisting that when there is a mishap between a cyborg and a human it is always the cyborg that is at fault. The principle is this, it is the robot's job to anticipate what we will do, not the other way around! How can we trust a machine whose makers demand that it is never in the wrong, and that only the human is capable of error? Or even crime? Meanwhile, the major tech companies swallow up all available patent rights, troll for more, and even invent patents in their imaginations of inventions they have no idea how to make work and intend not to develop, all to sustain their domination? Distrust? You bet! Just imagine an aerial view of our highways with all the cars moving at uniform precision, as if all directed by a single timekeeper. It's a chilling thought, to my mind, at least.

MJA's picture

MJA

Thursday, October 6, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

I imagine that One day the US

I imagine that One day the US will print money with my picture on it and on the back it will say "In Myself I Trust." =

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Thursday, October 6, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Rome began to fall when its

Rome began to fall when its leaders used their own image on coins and in other public spaces.
How many is one? Is one counted which one and counted as one counted one differently? Descartes arrived at his cogito as, he supposed, the final term of an otherwise complete doubtfulness. Where is the doubt arriving at this image of yourself so dubious what you mean by one?

MJA's picture

MJA

Friday, October 7, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

One plus One is One. = is.

One plus One is One. = is. Truth is.
?As for Descartes, he reduced himself by removing any questions or doubts from his thoughts and found his true self. Or in todays dictum, (mmm Latin) he rebooted his computer. But he wasn't strong enough to be the "I" he had found, to be One. It takes strength to be true. He began reinserting his faith in God and other such uncertainties back into his true self which led to his dualism again. He tasted the truth and found how sweet it is. Be One, = 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Saturday, October 8, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Strength? Why? Something

Strength? Why? Something opposed to one? Something not one? Your fundamental axiom is conjunction. Strength implies disjunction. But how can you proceed in the reduction to the residue of the certain "one" and "=" purely by conjunction? Or avoid it without indiscernment?
 

MJA's picture

MJA

Saturday, October 8, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

 

My fundamental truth is One. I find strength in the union of everything, the power of truth.  Mathematically equal, the ultimate uniter can be found in every equation, without doubt, without discernment. Have you ever questioned an = sign? The questions in mathematics arise from the judgment of the symbols on either side of =.  2 + 2 = X, 1, 4,  anything or everything, right?  Equal is an equation's absolute. So much for Godel's "incompleteness," Heisenberg's uncertainty, and religious faith, the search for God?
You question Gary discernment or judgment when it comes to truth. Let me try to help you here. Black's dictionary defines just as only fair. But fairness is not just, it is only uncertainty at best. That fairness arises from the measure of evidence. The scale of justice like an equation has an infinite point of balance, equality again is the single immeasurable absolute. Anything else on either side of equal is fair or unfair at best.
Oneness is immeasurable too. 
What is the goal of Democracy Gary, is it not equality and freedom? You question the absolute when our history is fundamentally the fight for freedom. Equality is freedom. But yet you we and even Socrates could only question what truth is true. Why is truth not obvious to everyone? Is it just to simple, has complexity obscured it? Is it so close to us that it cannot be seen or grasped? Is not truth just us? Everything? Equally?
Why can't you see it too? Do tell, why is equality so difficult for you and for so many others? Have you measured it away? Does measure divide? Who are we to judge?
Beating the equality drum One beat at a time, 
=

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, October 9, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Why? Because you're being

Why? Because you're being stubbornly obtuse. One is difference. It only counts what is different. Are you given strength, or do you make it yourself? If given, which one is it? If you make it up all on your own, why do you need it? There is a difference between the phenomenon and the idea of it. A vacuum is no less a vacuum if there are a few particles buzzing around in it. In between those particles it is still a vacuum. White is not the same as whiteness, one is different from oneness, obtuseness is different from being obtuse.
There is no induction. Only reductive reasoning can infer from knowing which one is which. And only the completion of that reduction as the differing of its antecedent term are we found what oneness is. But loss, not obstinacy (strength?) is who it is. That is, the different one. Because one is difference.

 

Listen:

 
 
 

Blog Archive

2018

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2017

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2016

December

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2015

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2005

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March