Trust in Conversation


  • David Cockburn University of Wales


Wittgenstein Ludwig, 20th century philosophy, Logstrup, trust, conversation


We may think of the notion of “trust” primarily in epistemological terms or, alternatively, primarily in ethical terms. These different ways of thinking of trust are linked with different ways of picturing language, and my relation to the words of another. While an analogy with an individual continuing an arithmetical series has had a central place in discussions of language originating from Wittgenstein, Rush Rhees suggests that conversation provides a better model for thinking about language. Linking this with Knud Løgstrup’s suggestion that “In its basic sense trust is essential to every conversation”, the paper develops the idea of speech as fundamentally a form of contact between human beings. With that, the constraints on which we need to focus if we are to grasp the nature of conversation are not, as in Grice’s influential treatment, maxims whose observance will aid the pursuit of certain general human ends. The relevant constraints are, rather, limits on our goal-directed activity: limits that are fundamental to our relations with others. It is within this framework that we must understand the form of “trust” that is central to conversation.

Author Biography

David Cockburn, University of Wales

David Cockburn is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. His publications include Other Human Beings (Macmillan, 1990), Other Times: Philosophical perspectives on past, present and future (Cambridge University Press, 1997), An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Palgrave, 2001), and a range of papers on themes in philosophy of mind, ethics, Wittgenstein, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of time.


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