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You can trust the ladder, but you shouldn’t

Tallant, Jonathan



My claim in this paper is that, contra what I take to be the orthodoxy in the wider literature, we do trust inanimate objects—per the example in the title, there are cases where people really do trust a ladder (to hold their weight, for instance), and, perhaps most importantly, that this poses a challenge to that orthodoxy. My argument consists of 4 parts. In section 2 I introduce an alleged distinction between trust as mere reliance and trust as a rich, morally loaded notion. In the course of doing so, I briefly sketch some models of trust. This will help us to get a handle on how some of the mainstream models of trust preclude or ignore the trusting of inanimate objects. In section 3 I introduce cases designed to show that we have reason to think that we do trust inanimate objects. In section 4 I consider an objection, and, in section 5 I discuss some consequences of this finding, before concluding in section 6.


Tallant, J. (2019). You can trust the ladder, but you shouldn’t. Theoria, 85(2), 102-118.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 18, 2018
Online Publication Date Jan 28, 2019
Publication Date Apr 30, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 29, 2021
Journal Theoria (Sweden)
Print ISSN 0040-5817
Electronic ISSN 1755-2567
Publisher Berghahn Journals
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 85
Issue 2
Pages 102-118
Public URL
Publisher URL


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