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A dominant claim in the philosophical literature on trust is that we should stop thinking in terms of group trustworthiness or appropriate trust in groups. In this paper, we push back against this claim by arguing that philosophical work on trust would benefit from being brought into closer contact with empirical work on the nature of trust. We consider data on reactive attitudes and moral responsibility to adjudicate on different positions in the philosophical literature on trust. An implication of our argument is that the distinction between different kinds of groups—mere groups versus institutional groups—deserves more attention than is currently recognized in the philosophical literature on trust.
In the first section of the paper, we draw some basic philosophical distinctions concerning the nature and kinds of trust. In section two, we present the positions taken by Hawley (2017), who argues against trust in groups, and Faulkner (2018), who argues in favor of trust in groups. In section three, we introduce some empirical data and suggest that, albeit tentatively, this looks to undermine Hawley's position and is compatible with Faulkner's approach. We thus suggest, on the basis of the evidence that we have available, that we have reasons to prefer the position taken by Faulkner (2018) over that taken by Hawley (2017). We end by discussing some implications for distinctions between different kinds of groups relevant for future philosophical work on trust.
Pragmatists believe that philosophical inquiry must engage closely with practice to be useful and that practice serves as a source of social norms. As a growing alternative to the analytic and continental philosophical traditions, pragmatism is well suited for research in business ethics, but its role remains underappreciated. This article focuses on Richard Rorty, a key figure in the pragmatist tradition. We read Rorty as a source of insight about the ethical and political nature of business practice in contemporary global markets, focusing specifically on his views about moral sentiments, agency, and democratic deliberation. Importantly for business ethicists, Rorty’s approach sets in stark relief our moral responsibility as useful, practical thinkers in addressing the societal challenges of our time. We use “modern slavery” as an empirical context to highlight the relevance of Rorty’s approach to business ethics.
Some business ethicists view agency theory as a cautionary tale—a proof that it is impossible to carry out successful economic interactions in the absence of ethical behaviour. The cautionary-tale view presents a nuanced normative characterisation of agency, but its unilateral focus betrays a limited understanding of the structure of social interaction. This article moves beyond unilateralism by presenting a descriptive and normative argument for a bilateral cautionary-tale view. Specifically, we discuss hat swaps and role dualism in asymmetric-information principal-agent relationships and argue that the norm of reciprocity can function as a moral solution to agency risks in adverse-selection and moral-hazard problems. Our bilateral cautionary-tale formulation extends the normative boundaries of agency theory, while leaving the fundamental economic assumptions of agency theory intact.