ABSTRACT

There is a widely recognized dilemma of political epistemic trust. While the public needs to rely on the testimonies of epistemic authorities (e.g. politicians, policymakers, and scientists), it is risky to do so. One source of risk is self-interest. Epistemic authorities are prone to abuse the trust placed in them by misinforming the public for material and social gain. To reap the benefits of trust and mitigate the risk of abuse, liberal political theorists adopt the strategy of cultivating vigilant trust. By enhancing epistemic vigilance and epistemic autonomy, trust is both constrained and intellectualized. This chapter rejects this strategy for two reasons. First, it is undesirable. By over-intellectualizing trust, such an approach deprives trust of its important epistemic and social benefits. Second, it is unnecessary. The risk of abuse is exaggerated. The strategy fails to appreciate that epistemic authorities in virtue of their social roles are typically governed by the social norm of epistemic trustworthiness, not self-interest. The chapter concludes by suggesting an alternative strategy of cultivating trustworthiness. It seeks to strengthen epistemic authorities’ responsiveness to the social norm of epistemic trustworthiness, thereby improving epistemic trust without over-intellectualizing it. It is further outlined how liberal-democratic institutions can implement it.