PhD Studentship (Philosophy – Epistemology)

Published: 8 January 2020

Deadline for applications: 10 February 2020

A Virtue Epistemology of Trust: PhD Studentship (Philosophy – Epistemology)

Funding body: Leverhulme Trust
Deadline for applications: Monday 16 March 2020
Interviews date: Tuesday 31 March 2020
Start date for PhD: no later than Wednesday 1 July 2020
Duration: three years
Funding details: Home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend 

Project Summary

One of the most serious challenges faced by philosophers of trust is to understand why, and under what circumstances, we should trust as opposed to distrust others and what they tell us. Even though philosophical theories of trust have offered insights into what trust is, they have yet to tell us what qualities make someone a good or bad truster, and how they do so.

This project introduces virtue epistemology to address this issue for the first time. It offers a novel method for theorising about what dispositions trusting well requires, and it uses this method to explain why certain forms of skilled trusting are more valuable than others.
The project is also designed to break new ground in debates about trustworthiness by showing that skills needed to be a good truster, as well as to be reliably trustworthy, are importantly related. Further, the project connects these results more widely to debates in social epistemology by showing how trusting well provides a constraint on three key aspects of social life: assertion, action, and practical reasoning.

An important payoff is an understanding of how skilled trusting can help build and sustain more resilient trust networks. It is urgent that we gain such answers and insights: according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, UK public trust in social media and online news has plummeted to below 25%, and trust in government is at a low 36%. This present crisis in trust of corresponds with a related crisis of distrust, in that the dissemination and uptake of fake news, particularly on social media, have risen dramatically the past few years. Public policy regulations can at best treat the symptoms of these problems in the absence of a deeper understanding of their sources in our own agency.

Questions that the project will seek to answer:

Q1: What kind of traits make a person a good truster, and how do they do so?

Q2: What is the relationship between being a good truster, and having the kind of traits in virtue of which one is trustworthy?

Q3: How can thinking about what’s involved in trusting well help us to build more resilient and healthy trust networks?

Getting clear answers to these questions would constitute a much-needed breakthrough in the philosophy of trust, one that is analogous to the breakthrough that the virtue-theoretic framework has already provided epistemologists for thinking about knowledge. And, practically speaking, rigorous and principled answers to Q1- Q3 will go a long way to helping us to isolate key sources of trust’s erosion that lie within our own agency and control.


The core hypothesis to be tested is that insights from virtue epistemology can transform our understanding of what it is to trust well, and in a way that will help us make needed traction on each of Q1-Q3, questions which are philosophically important and—given the widespread erosion of trust—politically and socially timely. The proposed project offers—in a way that is informed by cutting-edge work in virtue epistemology and the philosophy of trust—a novel virtue-theoretic account of: 1. the nature and value of trust; (in connection with Q1) 2. its structural relationship to trustworthiness; (in connection with Q2) 3. its normative connections with the social-epistemic practices of assertion, action and practical reason (in connection with Q3).

The overarching project will involve three phases—each of which corresponds with one of the three central project objectives—and it will be led throughout by the PI (Dr. J. Adam Carter) and Co-Is (Dr. Christoph Kelp and Dr. Mona Simion), with input from an expert steering committee. The project postdoctoral fellow and Ph.D student will be centrally involved in all aspects of the project.

The PhD student

The Ph.D student will investigate virtue and trust, and their relationship, by drawing from literature in both philosophy and moral psychology. Organisationally, the Ph.D project will be divided into two main parts. The first part (which includes a substantial literature review) will show how empirical work on both virtue and trust can inform the development of a virtue-based account of trust. The second part will use the findings from the first part in the service of rigorously addressing at least one of the project's three core objectives. 

An expectation is that the Ph.D student will complete six chapters in total and will submit the final version by project's completion. The PI will arrange for the Ph.D to be externally examined by an expert in the area, who will join an internal examiner not on the supervisory team; the degree awarded upon completion will be a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Glasgow.

The PhD student will be affiliated with Glasgow's COGITO Epistemology Research Centre, and more widely in Glasgow's Philosophy department and graduate community. Both COGITO and the Glasgow Philosophy department regular work-in-progress seminars, where the PhD student can gain feedback on their work--along with the feedback that will be given in regular supervision sessions and at project team workshops (3 per year).
Because the studentship at Glasgow is embedded more widely in Glasgow's College of Arts, the PhD student will benefit from an array of training opportunities provided by the College of Arts' Postgraduate Research Skills Development programme. This includes over 20 different professional skills and career development courses over the three-year studentship.

Furthermore, the PhD student will have an opportunity to develop their teaching portfolio by tutoring undergraduate courses in Philosophy, if they so wish.

In terms of a supervisory meeting schedule: it is expected that the PhD student will meet to review progress with the PI and Co-Is, in their capacity as primary and co-secondary supervisors) at least once per month. In addition, the PhD student will undergo an Annual Progress Review (APR) each May, in which yearly milestones are assessed by the supervisory team as well as Philosophy's Postgraduate Research convenor, Fiona Macpherson.

Outputs (PhD student)

(a) Research activity: The Ph.D student's principal output will be a doctoral thesis on the project's theme, and a literature review during Phase 1. The literature review, which will cover work on virtue and trust in moral psychology, will function also as a chapter of the Ph.D thesis.
(b) Authorship: The Ph.D student will be a solo author of the Ph.D thesis and a co-author of the policy white paper.
(c) Publication: The Ph.D thesis will be made available open access at Glasgow University Library.


We seek applicants with a masters degree (or equivalent) in analytic philosophy. A demonstrable interest/competence in relevant topics in epistemology will be considered an advantage.

Funding eligibility

To be eligible you will also need to be accepted onto the relevant PhD programme via University of Glasgow Admissions.

How to apply

Applicants should submit a Curriculum Vitae, including contact details of one academic referee, and a 2-page covering letter outlining why they are interested in this PhD opportunity and what they would bring to this project.

This should be sent in an email to by Monday 16 March 2020.

Interviews will be held on Tuesday 31 March 2020. 

Further information

If you have any questions, please email Dr J. Adam Carter

First published: 8 January 2020

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