“Most important social practices depend on trust in some way”, says faculty member Thomas Simpson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy. “Trust and trustworthiness are foundational social phenomena.” His new book, Trust: A Philosophical Study (OUP), considers when and why trust arises.

Societies with high levels of trust – especially political trust – tend to fare better, with higher compliance with the law, greater growth and trade, and lower death rates. But trust is on the decline in many societies. Political polarisation, fake news, and the rise of conspiracy theories have contributed to, and are products of, growing distrust.

In terms of a philosophical approach to thinking about trust, “perhaps the most central question that one can ask is: why should I trust?” says Tom. “When is it well placed? What makes it well-placed? When I consider whether to trust another person, what should I take into account?”

His book is dedicated to this question, including the question of how cultures of trust – whether within countries or institutions – are developed, with insights for how declining trust might be reversed.