On Trust

17th August 2017


Trust, the value which underpins our society, is the subject of a fascinating new book from Wadham’s Senior Research Fellow, Tom Simpson.

Coming at a time when a crisis of trust has not only hit world economies, but also political systems, The Philosophy of Trust highlights some of the underlying issues.

Tom describes how his interest in the subject began: “I started working on trust during the financial crisis in 2008. This had multiple causes but at its heart were practices involving the systematic abuse of trust: so-called ‘NINJA' loans in the US sub-prime mortgage market. This crisis of trust has hit our economy first. It is now hitting our politics, and it is an open question how resilient democracy will be to the loss of the deep routines of social trust.”

Tom believes that these are “symptoms of deeper, structural changes in our moral ecology. In the most general terms, the historic ties which have bound individuals and families to wider communities are in steady dissolution, and the claims of responsibility have increasingly little weight to counter-balance those of right. Another symptom of these changes is the way that progressive movements have metastasized into cultures of victimhood, with unstable tendencies towards illiberal coercion.”

"Philosophical work on trust will not solve these problems,” adds Tom. “It may begin to highlight some of the issues at stake. This collection is part of a wider attempt to remedy nearly 400 years of neglect of the topic by modern philosophy. The contributions largely centre around core, analytical questions about the nature of trust: how is it that the attitude can be evaluated both in rational and moral terms? What kind of attitude is it? When is trust justified? Who can be the objects of trust?"

These questions and more are explored and developed in this collection of fifteen new essays. They develop and extend existing philosophical discussion of trust and provide a reference point for future work on trust.

The Philosophy of Trust (OUP) is edited by Tom Simpson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College and Paul Faulkner, Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

  • Tom Simpson