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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


HEYNS, Michael. Mere trust and the preconditions for it. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.3, pp.437-452. ISSN 2224-7912.

There is a perception that our time shows a general and profound crisis of confidence in several essential areas. The seriousness of this trend can only be measured against the background of a view on how important trust is for being human. During and after the Enlightenment, it became fashionable to reduce being human to rationality. Thus, rationalism requires that trust be constructed primarily to reflect rationality or take a lesser place in human existence. We currently live in a time that increasingly realises that rationality has its limits and that being human presupposes far more aspects and factors than the dominant currents of thought the Enlightenment allows. This realisation will allow for a view that gives a more significant place to trust. An overemphasis on human reason can be seen in Kant's core statements about what the Enlightenment entails. Scepticism about a significant role for trust can also be surmised when he suggests that trust relations based on the church's confessions are not something that should inhibit the rational progress of mankind. For many reasons, resistance to rationalism is becoming a prominent trend in the current view of trust. This trend can be seen, among other things, in the prominent place that vulnerability is accorded in definitions of trust. This vulnerability has a background in the anxiety of modern human beings. This anxiety is the result of the numerous horrors humankind has committed, primarily through reason, over the past century. Although vulnerability is a popular focus in trust research, it is also controversial. It is argued that people who truly trust do not feel vulnerable. Instead, as far as anxiety and vulnerability are concerned, we deal with a context factor that needs to be taken seriously. However, it is not necessary for trust in itself (mere trust) to be reduced to vulnerability. Consequently, it is necessary to ask where trust should be positioned if we want to give it its rightful place? Nicholas Wolterstor ffpoints to another direction than rationalism (or an emphasis on vulnerability, for that matter). The search for the creator of the cosmos or what gave rise to the cosmos and its laws remains deeply shrouded in a rational twilight. The over-optimistic confidence in reason during and after the Enlightenment must make way for a worldview in which trust comes more into its own. Rationality does not have to disappear but must also reconcile itself with a strong link with trust. Therefore, current trust research that mentions antecedents of trust is on an enlightening path when it emphasises the reconsideration of a calculating trust and the consideration of other antecedents. Current research on trust assumes that the following two sets of antecedents should receive the most attention: rationality/expertise/calculation and integrity/benevolence/morality. The two "schools" that coincide with this can be divided between non-cognitivists who think cognitivists are not able to recognise trust - trust merely becomes the application of calculations. In their negative reaction to this, the earlier non-cognitivists run the same reductionist danger - in this case, a reduction of confidence to emotion. Therefore, recent non-cognitivists suggest that trust should be defined by referring to its unconscious but ubiquitous state. Cognitivists accuse this view of not being in touch with people's everyday existence and experience. In reaction, one could argue that trust is an abstraction and therefore not summarily visible in people's everyday lives. Biological health, rationality, and emotion should also be embedded in people's everyday lives in a similarly seamless way. Therefore, all these functions related to being human will mostly be invisible unless they are dysfunctional, under pressure or being investigated by scholars by means of abstraction from the totality of human existence. At the same time, however, it is clear that abstraction can only be understood if it is seen in interaction with other such abstractions. Back to the very first comment of the article: Data that support the perception of a crisis of trust in public institutions are widely available. According to such data, trust in most public institutions is seriously deteriorating. An exploratory analysis of the breach of trust's causal patron indicates that antecedents of trust in public institutions are also sought in aspects that fall outside the trustees' rational expertise, affection, and integrity. Trusters are increasingly relying on the willingness of trusted people to align with their identities, economic needs, lifestyle, and ideological beliefs. This means that the antecedents of trust and those already popular in trust research should also include the economic, biotic, and historically shaped identities, as well as worldviews of trusters and trustees. The critical point to note is that the list of antecedents for trust is broader than is generally accepted. Therefore, it is urgent to define trust not only in terms of some of the antecedents wherewith it is intertwined. Many of the recent breaches of trust result from a distortion caused by a reductionist view of trust.

Palavras-chave : Trust; Enlightenment; rationalism; rationality; vulnerability; antecedents of trust; cognitive and non-cognitive theories of trust; trust as abstraction.

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