Epistemic Trust

Trust, in its vernacular meaning, is a blurred concept with many facets. This being the case, it should be all the more important for philosophical accounts to be selective about the aspects oftrust that are to be studied and the function that it is supposed to perform. It should also be important to be domain-specific. After all, what applies to interactions between children or friends in non-professional everyday life need not apply to the professional interaction between scientists who collaborate to create scientific knowledge.

Can one know from trust? This question is particularly acute in the context of scientific knowledge creation, in which strong emphasis is placed on grounding knowledge in inferential and observational evidence and where the imperative of “organized skepticism" is supposed to reign (Merton, 1973 [1942]). Drawing upon John Hardwig’s work, I argue that one can indeed ground knowledge on trust and that, in fact, scientists do so in scientific practice (Hardwig, 1991, p. 697)—a position, however, as we will see in Chap. 9, that leads me to distinguish between individual, trust-based knowing and scientific knowledge.

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 S. Wagenknecht, A Social Epistemology of Research Groups, New Directions in the Philosophy of Science,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-52410-2_8

In this chapter, I elaborate how epistemic trust enables epistemically dependent scientists to acquire knowledge they otherwise would not be able to have. After having introduced the notion in Sect. 8.1, I argue that epistemic trust in scientific practice has a tentative character and is accompanied by epistemic vigilance in Sect. 8.2. Thereafter, I elaborate the ways in which collaborating scientists address these issues in Sects. 8.3, 8.4, and 8.5. As these sections are grounded in empirical data about the planetary science group, Sect. 8.6 considers issues of epistemic trust for the molecular biology laboratory.

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