I'm trying to find a better definition and description of trust than the one typically used in management and organizational behavior research. While there are many variations on the definition, they generally fall into "Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing." This definition doesn't sit right with me. I know there is a better definition for it, it just alludes me right now. I just need to sit down and have my little brain think through it.

A definition of trust should capture the essential nature of that concept. When I use the phrases:
"I trust my doctor's diagnosis."
"I trust my kids to make the right choices."
"I lose trust in you when you lie to me."
"I trust you'll do what you say you'll do."
"I trust my order at the store will be delivered in a reasonable amount of time."

What do they have in common?

It goes beyond just a firm reliance on integrity, ability, or character. Certainly these moral traits are important, but are they essential? Are there other virtues that are involved with trust? Some of the scholarly papers that discuss trust lump honesty with integrity. Yet these two virtues are distinct.

Discussion of ability begs the question, what makes someone able? Its a combination of rationality, productivity, and their current knowledge base. While having a large store of knowledge isn't itself virtuous, that knowledge when applied to solving problems is virtuous. But to solve problems requires rationality, internal honesty, independence, and integrity. So essentially, ability is heading down the right path, describing virtuous behavior, but is not essential to the definition of trust.

Is not an estimation of the morality of the object of trust needed? The rationality, honesty, integrity, justice, independence, self-esteem, and productivity are all part of trust. In order to trust someone, we must know their rectitude.

But trust assumes more than just an estimation of someone's morality. It assumes we are dependent upon, in some form, their morality. Solely dependent upon it. In other words, we must make a decision based solely upon the moral character of an individual, in the absence of facts to the specific context in question.

So my working definition of trust will be:
"Reliance upon the moral character of an individual when making decisions."


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