Authority and Trust: Reflections on Linda Zagzebski's Epistemic Autohrity


  • John Cottingham University of Reading



Our modern egalitarian and individualistic age is suspicious of authority, and in recent times there have been almost daily reports in the press of cases where trust in various authorities, including financial, governmental, political and religious, has been found to have been abused or misplaced. Such disappointments seem to bolster the case for withholding trust in external authority and falling back on one’s own resources. But if the lessons from Linda Zagzebski’s groundbreaking work are accepted, 1 self- reliance turns out to be a confused and probably incoherent ideal (this is the critical or negative part of her thesis); and (more positively) the rational and self-reflective person is committed to believing and acting on authority. In the second half of this short discussion paper I shall raise some possible concerns about Zagzebski’s positive case for reliance on authority, focussing on the moral and religious spheres. First however, let me say something about the negative part of Zagzebski’s work, her critique of self-reliance. Since I find this wholly convincing, I shall confine myself to some supplementary observations, mainly to do with the historical context in which her critique is located.




How to Cite

Cottingham, John. 2014. “Authority and Trust: Reflections on Linda Zagzebski’s Epistemic Autohrity”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 6 (4):25-38.