Colloquium: C. Thi Nguyen (University of Utah)
Title: Trust as an Unquestioning Attitude
Most accounts of trust presume that trust can only be directed towards agents. In these accounts, trust involves attributing some positive agential status to the trusted, such as goodwill or responsiveness. I argue that there is another distinctive form of trust: the unquestioning attitude. When one trusts in this sense, one stops questioning whether the trusted can perform their function. And one can hold the unquestioning attitude towards objects. When I trust my climbing rope, I put concerns about its reliability out of mind. When I trust my online calendaring system, I simply go to the events indicates, without question. But, one might worry, non-agential objects could never be the proper target for such a normatively charged attitude as trust. For one thing, trust brings with it the possibility of betrayal. How could betrayal ever be an appropriate response to an object? I suggest that we use the unquestioning attitude to integrate other objects into our own agency. It let us weld external sources into our cognition and activity — to let them inside, so to speak. Thus, we can feel betrayed by objects in the same way we can feel betrayed by our memory or our hands. We are betrayed because something that we took to be a component of our agency has failed to function as it ought. And these considerations can help us to understand our relationship to — and vulnerability towards — the technologies that we trust, such as our phones, search engines, and social media networks.