Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):55-78 (1999)

Karen Jones
University of Melbourne
Trust enters into the making of a virtuous person in at least two ways. First, unless a child has a sufficiently trusting relationship with at least one adult, it is doubtful that she will be able to become the kind of person who can form ethically responsible relationships with others. Infant trust, as Annette Baier has reminded us, is the foundation on which future trust relationships will be built; and when such trust is irreparably shaken, the adult into whom the child grows may be forever cut off from intimacy. Second, a moral beginner must trust other people's moral judgment while she learns to be good. A child does not learn how to be good on her own. She follows the precepts and examples of others, absorbs the moral values of the community into which she has been born, and relies on others who, with luck, will not lead her astray but will turn out to be trustworthy in offering her guidance and correction. While there is some empirical evidence that children learn about morality better when given reasons in support of what they are being taught, part of what a child is being taught is what counts as a good reason. Thus, no moral beginner could be in a position to assess adequately the cogency of the reasons she given until she has progressed some distance in her education. Until that time, the beginner must rely on other people's judgment. That thrust enters into the making of a morally good person should thus be uncontroversial. I want to defend a much more controversial thesis: needing to trust other people's moral judgment is not just a stage we go through on the way to becoming morally virtuous. If the world of value is complex, and if our access to it is shaped by our experiences, then even among the morally mature there will continue to be a significant role for moral testimony and thus for trust.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Trust  Moral Responsibility  Moral Epistmemology  Agency  Moral Autonomy  Moral Deference  Moral Testimony
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ISBN(s) 0022-362X
DOI jphil19999628
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