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Un-confusing the Notion of Trust
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7768OAI: diva2:12891
QC 20100713Available from: 2007-12-07 Created: 2007-12-07 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Trusting and Taking Risks: a Philosophical Inquiry
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Trusting and Taking Risks: a Philosophical Inquiry
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is a philosophical contribution to the theories on trust and on risk communication. The importance of trust in risk communication has been argued for and empirically studied since the 80s. However, there is little agreement on the notion of trust and the precise function of trust. This thesis sets out to study both aspects from a philosophical point of view. The dissertation consists of five essays and an introduction.

Essay I is a comment on risk perception theory and the psychometric model in particular. The essay argues that sometimes individuals take risks simply because they are in a vulnerable position and have no other choice. Four factors are identified as crucial in risks from vulnerability: poor outset conditions, lack of reasonable options, hope and liability to disinformation.

Essay II addresses the democratic approach to risk communication and the ideal of risk communication as a dialogue between more or less equal stakeholders. The essay develops a typology of different risk communication practices and influence distributions and concludes that the form of risk communication most commonly referred to in the literature is of the most imbalanced kind where all three types of influence falls to the same party.

Essay III argues that trust can be understood as comfortable defocusing. Trust as comfortable defocusing means that when a person trusts, he or she is comfortable with letting certain things be in the hands or in the control of the trusted other. Departing from this idea a definition of trust is proposed consisting of three elements: (i) the truster’s comfortable defocusing from the trusted person’s part of caring for X, based on a (ii) belief about the trusted person’s care for X, concerning (iii) something of concern to the truster.

Essay IV explores the concept of trustworthiness and under which conditions trust can be betrayed in a morally justified way. It is argued that two aspects are essential for every reasonable notion of trustworthiness: reliability in terms of commitment to trust and predictability in terms of compliance with norms. In order to be untrustworthy in a morally justified way two major conditions need to be fulfilled: first, what is expected from the trustee needs to be either immoral or part of an ongoing immoral or unjust relationship between truster and trustee and, secondly, the trustee must not be in a position to explicitly reject trust.

Essay V examines two of the most employed distinctions within the trust literature, that of trust/confidence and of trust/reliance. These distinctions are evaluated against a set of five criteria. It is argued that both these distinctions are employed to cover several distinguishing properties, thus adding to conceptual confusion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2007. vi, 31 p.
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 24
beliefs, comfortable defocusing, disposition, power, public trust, risk
National Category
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4567 (URN)978-91-7178-773-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-12-14, Sal D2, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00
QC 20100712Available from: 2007-12-07 Created: 2007-12-07 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved

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Hayenhjelm, Madeleine
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