05 February 2013
University of Vienna and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Judith Simon

I my presentation, I will a) briefly outline my current research project on "Epistemic Trust in Socio-Technical Epistemic Systems" (funded by the Austrian Science Fund and conducted at the University of Vienna, Department of Philosophy) and b) go into some details regarding the relationship between trust, knowledge and responsibility.

Epistemic trust, the function of trust in knowledge lies at the heart of this research project. Within philosophy, epistemic trust is a contested topic because knowledge is usually considered to depend on evidence and not on trust. The very idea of knowledge as justified true belief implies an autonomy of the knower that seems to be opposite to the epistemic dependence that trust relations imply. Yet any analysis of epistemic practices in science as well as in everyday life shows how deeply our knowledge depends on trust in other people. Without trusting in what others have told us, we would neither know some of the most basic facts about ourselves nor could we have achieved the most advanced scientific knowledge. This is the central dilemma of epistemic trust: while on the one hand it seems that the almost everything we know depends on our trust in the testimony of others, the status of testimonial knowledge and the role of epistemic trust remain highly controversial. Yet things are even more complicated. Within contemporary epistemic practices trust is not only placed in other humans, but also in technologies, processes, institutions and content. Indeed, information and communication technologies (ICT) play a special role for epistemic trust, because they cannot only be trusted themselves, they also increasingly mediate and organize trust relations between all other entities as well. In the my project I therefore analyze and re-assess central debates around epistemic trust by taking into account that practices of epistemic trust take place within dynamic and entangled socio-technical epistemic systems consisting of multiple human and non-human agents. Two research topics are of central interest: the relationship between epistemic trust and epistemic vigilance as well as the notion of epistemic responsibility. While this project is situated within philosophy, collaborations with computer scientists are foreseen for the work packages on trust in multi-agent systems and trust in recommender systems (partners are IIIA and the University of Trento). Therefore, I would be particularly interested in comments and feedback from those interested in trust from computational perspectives.

Institution department: 
Department of Philosophy and Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis