Esther Oluffa Pedersen
December 18, 2012
The article traces the few but important remarks on interpersonal trust scattered in Kant’s philosophical oeuvre. Through the reconstruction of a Kantian conception of trust an alternative to contemporary philosophical theories of trust is put forward. Interpersonal trust, according to my systematic reconstruction of Kant, makes up a continuum ranging from passive, habitual trust embedded in the social environment to active, reflective placement of trust in others. The active placement of trust is closely related to the reflective ability of human reason and, as such, it involves a leap into the supersensible. However, the phenomenon of trust also highlights a pragmatic background of Kant’s otherwise pure ethical theory: Prudential considerations of reasons to trust and distrust heterogeneous agents make up a core element of interpersonal trust. The prudential and reflexive placement of trust or distrust in another agent is a decisive step in the gradual development of moral character. Thus, trust together with the related phenomena of enlightenment and education point to a process of development in individual human lives as well as in human history that may enable us to approach the ethical ideal of a kingdom of ends.