Life as an Extreme Sport

Knowledge and Trust

Knowledge induces belief, belief in what one sees clearly or in a coherent and consistent account that supplies evidence or proof. Trust, which is as compelling as belief, is not produced by knowledge. In trust one adheres to something one sees only partially or unclearly or understands only vaguely or ambiguously. One attachces to someone whose words or whose movements one does not understand, whose reasons or motives one does not see.

Is it all the things that are known that encourage the leap, in this one instance, to adhere to something unknown as though it were known? Is it not because of a long past tried and true that someone becomes a trusted adviser? Is it all that one knows about laws, the institutions, the policing, and all that one knows about the values, the education, the peer pressure of individuals in a society that induce one to trust this individual met at random on a jungle path? But the more one knows about a tried and true adviser, the more clearly one sees that every act of loyalty opened an opportunity for disloyalty. The more one understands about the laws and programming of a culture, the more clearly one understands how they are imposed upon, but do not eliminate, can even provoke, impulses contrary to them.

Trust is a break, a cut made in the extending map of certainties and probabilities. The force that breaks with the cohesion of doubts and deliberations is an upsurge, a birth, a commencement. It has its own momentum, and builds upon itself. How one feels this force! Before these strangers in whom one’s suspicious and anxious mind elaborates so many scheming motivations, abruptly one fixes on this one, at random, and one feels trust, like a river released from a lock, swelling one’s mind and launching one on the way.

…The act of trust is a leap into the unknown. It is not an effect of ideological, cultural, historical, social, economic, or ethnobiological determinisms. But trust is everywhere – in the pacts and contracts, in institutions, in forms of discourse taken to be revealing or veridical, in the empirical sciences and in mathematical systems. Everywhere a human turns in the web of human activities, he touches upon solicitations to trust. The most electronically guarded, insured individual is constantly asked to trust.

-Alphonso Lingis, Trust, Typhoons pp. 64-66