The Issue of Ethical Trust in Contemporary Society

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2018


The Issue of Ethical Trust in Contemporary Society



He Lai, Yang Guorong, Fan Hao and Wang Jue


In recent years, the immediate and important issue of ethical trust has attracted widespread contemporary attention. Identifying and exploring the causes of this problem and thence reshaping the ethical environment of life in contemporary society is a basic theoretical issue that merits in-depth study and analysis on the part of philosophers and social scientists. The Journal’s editorial department has invited four scholars to consider this issue in a written dialogue. According to Professor He Lai at the School of Philosophy and Sociology of Jilin University, Marx’s critique of the inner division of civil society leads to a concept of “human society” or “social humanity” that reconstructs the normative and value foundation, thus providing interpersonal ethical trust with a solid intellectual foundation and inner certainty. The major transformation of the basis of philosophical norms and values implies the sublation and transcendence of the distortion and abstraction of interpersonal relations arising from capitalism’s economic base and relations of production, together with the emergence of a new type of relations of social production and communication. Professor Yang Guorong of the School of Philosophy and Institute of Modern Chinese Thought and Culture of East China Normal University argues that the establishment of trust relationships involves individual morality and character as well as universal social norms and institutions. Interpersonal trust based on rational cognition and certain value principles is the precondition for the possibility of social order. Individual character and morality provide internal guarantees for the establishment of social trust relationships, while institutional construction in the public domain constitutes the immediate external basis for its development. Professor Fan Hao of the Jiangsu Provincial Academy of Social Sciences and Southeast University points out that “integrity” includes the moral dimension of credit and the ethical dimension of trust; the ethical expectation of trust in others is what we call “ethical trust.” What is most noteworthy in today’s Chinese society is not the question of moral credit but the problem of ethical trust, which is ultimately related to gains and losses of cultural belief and cultural confidence. We must therefore break down the abstract causal chain of moral credit—ethical trust, leaving behind the erroneous issue of abstract moral credit, and establish a triune problematic of “moral credit—ethical trust—cultural confidence.” Professor Wang Jue, from the Southeast University’s School of Humanities, believes that trust is an ethical structural relationship between the trusting and the trusted which exists in a “chain of trust” formed by dynamic “trust—reciprocity” feedback between the two sides. The problem of trust in contemporary China includes the existence of interpersonal trust between acquaintances in traditional society and that between strangers in modern society, as well as the issue of systemic institutional trust between individuals and organizations, among organizations, and between organizations and society. We need to maintain society’s “chain of trust” through the organization of ethical construction.