On the Concept of Basic Trust

Martin Hartmann


In sociology, psychology and also in philosophy trust is often taken be basic or fundamental in the sense that only trust allows us to be and engage in the world, to develop a healthy ego-identity or to gain knowledge about other people’s opinions. Without basic trust in the world, in others or in other’s testimony, that is, we would not, as Luhmann says, get up in the morning, we would lack the self-confidence necessary to interact with others or would be unable to take their statements as trustworthy which seems to be a prerequisite for all learning processes. I question this model of basic trust not necessarily because I find it wrong but because I find it less informative than is often assumed. The fuzzy notion of trust gains in semantic richness and distinctivess, I assume, if we “defundamentalize” it and accept it as always surrounded by alternative psychological and emotional attitudes. Trust is thus treated as an achievement never to be taken for granted though easily naturalized. Following some conceptual clarifications I discuss phenomena such as violence and terror in order to clarify in what ways they destroy basic trust. This also opens the possibility to historicize trust and treat it less as an anthropological or psychological given.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.6094/behemoth.2015.8.1.850