Trust: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Aug 23, 2012 - Philosophy - 121 pages
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Trust is indispensable to our everyday lives, yet it can be dangerous. Without trusting others, we cannot function in society, or even stay alive for very long, but being overly trustful can leave us open to exploitation and abuse. And not only is trust pragmatic, but it also has a moral
dimension: trustworthiness is a virtue, and well-placed trust benefits us all. In this Very Short Introduction, philosopher Katherine Hawley explores the key ideas about trust and distrust. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, and evolutionary biology, she
emphasizes the nature and importance of trusting and being trusted, from our intimate bonds with significant others to our relationship with the state. Considering questions such as Why do we value trust? and Why do we want to be trusted rather than distrusted? Hawley illuminates the importance
of trust in the personal and public spheres. Moreover, she draws on a range of research to show how trust stands at the center of many disciplines, including biology, psychology, and game theory. The book also examines the evolutionary aspects of trust.

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Trust is one of those fundamental concepts that all of us take more or less for granted. It is essential glue that binds all functional relationships, and thanks to trust it is possible to live in incredibly complex societies with many oftentimes very competitive interests and yet be reasonably assured of one’s safety. However, once we start probing the nature of trust deeper, we realize how nuanced the notion of trust it really is. It involves much more than mare factual accuracy, knowledge, and it’s not restricted to individual human beings, but it has a much wider scope.
In “Trust: A Very Short Introduction” Katherine Hawley takes on a wide-ranging tour of trust, as it is best understood today. The book focuses on cultural, psychological, and philosophical questions that are relevant for the deeper understanding of this concept. The book is fairly detailed for such a short introduction, but it still manages to be accessible and informative for a wide range of readers. Hawley is an engaging and well-informed writer, and this book was definitely a pleasure to read. It is one of the better such book in this “Very Short Introduction” series. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of trust, as well as most other curious readers who want to broaden their intellectual horizons.


Trust and distrust at the breakfast table
What are trust and distrust?
Why trust and trustworthiness matter
Evolving trust and cooperation
Take the money and run
Honesty and dishonesty
Knowledge and expertise
Trust on the internet
Institutions conspiracies and nations
The importance of being trustworthy
Further reading
Very Short Introductions
A Very Short Introduction
A Very Short Introduction

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About the author (2012)

Katherine Hawley is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and Head of the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies. She is the author of How Things Persist (OUP, 2001) and co-editor of Philosophy of Science Today (with Peter Clark, OUP, 2003).

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