Document Type


Publication Date



This paper explores the epistemology and moral psychology of “therapeutic trust,” in which one trusts with the aim of inspiring greater trust-responsiveness in the trusted. Theorists have appealed to alleged cases of rational therapeutic trust to show that trust can be adopted for broadly moral or practical reasons and to motivate accounts of trust that do not involve belief or confidence in someone’s trustworthiness. Some conclude from the cases that trust consists in having normative expectations and adopting vulnerabilities with respect to the trusted; others that trust involves accepting (without necessarily believing) that someone will prove trustworthy. Although there are, I argue, some genuine cases of rational therapeutic trust, some prominent examples confuse trusting with entrusting and are actually counterexamples to the adopted vulnerabilities and acceptance accounts they have been taken to support. An alternative account, which construes trust in terms of being confident enough to take salient risks on someone’s trustworthiness, makes better sense of therapeutic trust.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Synthese in 2020 following peer review. The final publication may differ and is available at Springer via

A free-to-read copy of the final published article is available here.

Peer Reviewed






To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.