ACHEEV Seminar: The relation between trust in institutions and epistemic virtue and vice

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  • Wollongong Campus


You have to take a lot of things on trust. We all do. So if you think you’re doing your own research, you’re almost certainly still taking things on trust (and probably trusting the wrong people). This means that we need to cultivate a certain kind of open-mindedness: to be good at finding the right people to trust, rather than to try to go it on our own or gullibly trust every next person we hear from on any topic whatsoever. Whether your trust in institutions is justified depends on their prevailing methodological standards, as Jeroen de Ridder recently argued in an excellent paper. Unfortunately, we are generally not well-positioned to assess the methodological of a discipline in which we aren't already experts. One thing we can assess, however, is whether the experts in a field engage in robust criticism of one another. For this reason, in-group criticism by expert communities is extremely valuable. It can be unpleasant and awkward. There's a reason the Athenians put Socrates to death. But as finite networked animals, this is our best bet for forming reasonable opinions. If this is right, then trust in institutions that engage in robust self-criticism is probably your best bet, epistemically speaking, even if it's not a sure thing. I present evidence from multiple studies of tens of thousands of participants in dozens of countries that strongly suggest that this is the case.


Mark works in philosophy (epistemology, moral psychology, philosophy of science), social science (personality psychology, social psychology), and computer science. He also brings digital humanities methods to bear on both contemporary problems and the history of philosophy (especially Nietzsche).