Friday, Nov 4, 2011, 11:45 AM

Onora O’Neill

Professor Emer. of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

Perverting Trust

Many public, journalistic, and academic discussions of trust focus on empirical evidence of generic attitudes of trust and mistrust, yet say little about the trustworthiness or untrustworthiness to which such attitudes supposedly respond. From a practical point of view this is perverse: if we are to place and refuse trust intelligently we must do so on the basis of judgments of others’ trust-worthiness, or lack of trustworthiness in specific matters, and generic attitudes will seldom be helpful. The task of judging whether others say what they mean and will do what they say in a given situation can be epistemically demanding, and often requires judgments of others’ competence, honesty and reliability in specific matters.

Onora O’Neill was Principal of Newnham from 1992 to 2006, and is professor emeritus at the Faculty of Philosophy in Cambridge. She has been a member of and chaired the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission. She has worked on a number of reports on bio-medical issues, including recently the Kings Fund Inquiry into the Safety of Maternity Services. She was made a Life Peer in 1999, sits as a crossbencher, and served in the House of Lords. She writes on ethics and political philosophy, with particular interests in questions of international justice, in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and in bioethics. Her books include Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Development and Justice (1986), Constructions of Reason: Exploration of Kant’s Practical Philosophy (1989), Towards Justice and Virtue (1996), Bounds of Justice (2000), Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics (2002), A Question of Trust (the 2002 Reith Lectures) and Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics (jointly with Neil Manson, 2007).

The event will be held in English