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What does it mean to distrust a person or a group? Does it require that you believe that they bear you malice or are indifferent to your wellbeing? That you experience fear at the prospect of a compromising encounter? Is it a state of mind that involves closely monitoring and hatching contingency plans, or a behavioral disposition to avoid interaction, vulnerability, or reliance?  Distrust comprises all these strands as well as others. I propose a theory of distrust that unites them. On this account distrust is a characteristically defensive stance taken toward another person or group on the basis of perceived ill will, moral indifference, incompetence, or lack of integrity. The constitutive aim of this stance is to shield the bearer from vulnerability, loss, and exploitation. This account - Distrust as a Defensive Stance - is uniquely equipped to explain distrust's significance both for our moral relationships and for our epistemic agency.



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