Katherine Hawley (1971-2021)
Katherine Hawley is a philosopher who has written extensively on the topic of trust and its role in human relationships. One of her main concerns is to provide a unified account of both trust and distrust, and to understand the different ways in which trust can go wrong. In her work “Trust, Distrust and Commitment” (2014), Hawley advocates for a commitment theory of trust, a framework for understanding the nature and dynamics of trust in human relationships. According to this theory, trust is not something that can be taken for granted or assumed, but rather a commitment to rely on someone based on their past behavior and promises rather than just relying on a person’s reputation or appearance of trustworthiness. She also acknowledges that trust and distrust are closely related concepts and that understanding both is crucial for understanding the complexities of trust.
One of the key insights of the commitment theory of trust is that trust is not a binary state, but rather a spectrum. Trust can exist in varying degrees, from a minimal level of trust necessary for basic cooperation to a high level of trust necessary for deep collaboration. Additionally, the theory posits that trust can be conditional or unconditional, depending on the context and the situation.
Hawley argues that understanding both trust and distrust is essential for understanding the reasons why both trust and distrust are sometimes unwanted, the nature and limitations of trustworthiness, and the difference between unpredictability and untrustworthiness. She believes that by understanding these concepts, we can better navigate our relationships and build stronger connections with those around us.
For example, by understanding why trust can go wrong, we can take steps to prevent it. By understanding the difference between unpredictability and untrustworthiness, we can better distinguish between people who are unreliable and those who are simply unpredictable. By understanding the nature and limitations of trustworthiness, we can better understand the criteria for determining who is trustworthy and who is not.
Katherine Hawley’s work on trust and distrust is important for understanding the complexities of human relationships. Her commitment theory of trust, combined with her focus on understanding both trust and distrust, provides a valuable framework for understanding the nuances of trust and how to navigate it in our relationships.
More about Katherine Hawley (she died in 1971 at too young an age, of cancer) by Luis Roberto Garcia Martinez, “Prof. Katherine Hawley on Trust, Distrust, and Commitment” (August 2021)