The topology of communities of trust

Journal article


Alfano, Mark 2016. The topology of communities of trust. Russian Sociological Review. 15 (4), pp. 30 - 56. https://doi.org/10.17323/1728-192X-2016-4-30-56
AuthorsAlfano, Mark
Abstract

Hobbes emphasized that the state of nature is a state of war because it is characterized by a fundamental and generalized distrust. Exiting the state of nature and the conflicts it inevitably fosters is therefore a matter of establishing trust. Extant discussions of trust in the philosophical literature, however, focus either on isolated dyads of trusting individuals or trust in large, faceless institutions. In this paper, I begin to fill the gap between these extremes by analyzing what I call the topology of communities of trust. Such communities are best understood in terms of interlocking dyadic relationships that approximate the ideal of being symmetric, Euclidean, reflexive, and transitive. Few communities of trust live up to this demanding ideal, and those that do tend to be small (between three and fifteen individuals). Nevertheless, such communities of trust serve as the conditions for the possibility of various important prudential epistemic, cultural, and mental health goods. However, communities of trust also make various problematic phenomena possible. They can become insular and walled-off from the surrounding community, leading to a distrust of out-groups. They can lead their members to abandon public goods for tribal or parochial goods. These drawbacks of communities of trust arise from some of the same mechanisms that give them positive prudential, epistemic, cultural, and mental health value, and so can, at most, be mitigated, not eliminated.

Keywordstrust; distrust; community; flourishing; epistemology; topology; emotions; social epistemology
Year2016
JournalRussian Sociological Review
Journal citation15 (4), pp. 30 - 56
PublisherNational Research University Higher School of Economics
ISSN1728-192X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.17323/1728-192X-2016-4-30-56
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85011011278
Open accessOpen access
Page range30 - 56
Research GroupInstitute for Religion and Critical Inquiry
Publisher's version
License
Place of publicationRussian Federation
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