Trusting trust

February 2, 2011

Trust is “a particular expectation we have with regard to the likely behaviour of others.”

“Trust is our expectation that another person (or institution) will perform actions that are beneficial or at least not detrimental to us, regardless of our capacity to monitor those actions.”

Derrida suggested that humans have always had the choice of belief. There is an unending oscillation between absolute abandonment, despair and trust in God. Humans can constantly blame or rebuke God or take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

See Ricoeur and Derrida.

1759 Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.”

Smith writes (6th ed. p. 350):

… In spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose … be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society (Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments).

1800 [Entrepreneurship] was shaped by culture and delivered in trust. Trust was at the base of business activity and it was ultimately formed and informed by religo-spiritual beliefs and tradition (Capaldi 2005:339 citing J.B. Say c.1800).

1816-10-28 Hegel argued that he had dedicated his life to science “and it is a true joy to me to find myself again in this place where I may, in a higher measure and more extensive circle, work with others in the interests of the higher sciences, and help to direct your way therein. [I ask that you] bring with you a trust in science and a trust in yourselves.

1916 The term social capital first appeared in the context of academic debates on the decline of American cities and close-knit neighbourhoods (Capaldi 2005:339)

Wittgenstein (On Certainty) remarked on trust and foundational propositions. Primitive or elementary faith is hasty but excusable for without it one would be incapable of learning and engaging in language games. see also http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Lang/LangOrba.htm http://cp.unitingchurch.org.au/if_it_be_your_will.pdf

Popper in the Logic of Scientific Discovery argued that the critereon for propositions that belong to the empirical sciences is that they are capable of being falsified by evidence.

1962 Joan Robinson (Economic Philosophy 1962:146) claimed that solutions offered by economists to the moral and metaphysical problems are as ‘delusory as those of the theologians they replaced  (Economic Philosophy 1962:146).” She called for an ideology based on more than monetary values (Capaldi 2005:4). In her chapter entitled “Metaphysics, Morals and Science” Robinson (1962) argued that we enjoyed ontological certitude prior to the Freud’s who exposed us to our propensity to rationalization and Marx showing us how our ideas spring from ideologies.

1977 Glenn Loury used the term social capital to describe sources of certain kinds of income disparities (Capaldi 2005:339).

Pierre Bourdieu described it as one of the forms of capital that held account for individual achievement (Capaldi 2005:339).

Chicago sociologist, James Coleman, employed the term social capital throughout his opus of contributions (Capaldi 2005:339).

1985 The World Bank (1985:29) defines social capital as “the norms and social relations embedded in social structures that enable people to coordinate action to achieve desired goals (Capaldi 2005:339 citing J.B. Say c.1800).

Nan Lin published a trilogy on social capital: theory of social structures and action; theory and research; and foundations of social capital. Social capital is entrenched in popular parlance (Capaldi 2005:339).

1993 Hugh Laurie starred as a conman, Leo Hopkins, who charmed then ruined the lives of his elderly parents, wife, family, friends and strangers (and his prison cellmate) out of millions of dollars in Britain’s ITV network drama entitled All or Nothing at All. Even when he warned others of his untrustworthiness, they trusted him with their careers, lives and money.

2000 Trust is grouped along with personal connections and a sense of community as contributing to social capital in thriving organizations (Don Cohen and Laurence Prusak In Good Company (2001). Social capital which involves the social elements that contribute to knowledge sharing, innovation and high productivity upon which business and corporate life depend (Capaldi 2005:339 citing J.B. Say c.1800).

2000 Trust is “a particular expectation we have with regard to the likely behaviour of others (Gambetta 2000).”

2005 (Capaldi:339) argued for the need for a spiritual capital which is closely connected to on-going debates on trust, corruption, governance, sustainability and entrepreneurship. An investigation of spiritual capital would consider: The role and scope of personal religious ethics on private economic decisions; the exegetical, economic and historical roots and traditions which give rise to contrasting work ethics and economic systems; the role of societal institutions based on faith ranging (companies, trade unions, political parties, NGOs, intermediating structures); interpretations and practices concerning interest, inflation, growth, government authority, charity, trade in various spiritual worldviews; impact of religion on conduct and rules as employees, employers, consumers, producers, citizens (Capaldi 2005:342).

2005 Daniel Yankelovich, co-founder of the Public Agenda Foundation claimed people are developing a new spiritual search because of a lack of trust in business leaders. 87% of the population believes that there is a decline in social morality.

2012 Sapienza and Zingales’s article in the International Review of Finance argue  “that the changes in economic activity from late 2008 to early 2009 is due to a drop in trust. We present new survey evidence consistent with this hypothesis.”

Bibliography and webliography

Capaldi, Nicholas. 2005. Business and religion: a clash of civilizations? M & M Scrivener Press.

Abstract: “Since the late 1960s American culture has been involved in a struggle to articulate an effective business ethics. The scandals of Enron and WorldCom constitute egregious examples of the absence or deficiency of ethical decision-making in matters of commerce. The purpose of this volume is to inaugurate a dialogue on the common elements of all three Abrahamic traditions – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – that touch on ethical issues in business. With scholars, religious and business leaders joining the debate, this anthology is the beginning of a reconstruction of the understanding of the relationship between religion and commerce. Main Features: The following questions are addressed: Is a purely secular business ethics irremediably deficient? Does a substantive business ethic require a religious and spiritual framework? To what extent does current business practice reflect a spiritual dimension? What are the various religious traditions’ perspectives on the ethics of commerce? Can the various religious traditions generate a non-adversarial, consistent, and coherent business ethic? Is there a role for religion and spirituality in a global and post-modern business world?” Nicholas Capaldi is the Distinguished Chair of Business Ethics at Loyola University in New Orleans where he also serves as the Director of the National Institute for Business Ethics.

Gambetta, Diego. 2000. “Can We Trust Trust?”, in Gambetta, Diego (ed.) Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations, University of Oxford, 213‐237.

Sapienza, Paola; Zingales,Luigi. 2012.  A Trust Crisis.  International Review of Finance. 12: 123–131. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2443.2012.01152.x

“We conjecture that the changes in economic activity from late 2008 to early 2009 is due to a drop in trust. We present new survey evidence consistent with this hypothesis.”


Paul Ricoeur, wide-ranging thinkers in the twentieth century, a contemporary continental philosopher whose work on existentialism and phenomenology to psychoanalysis, politics, religion and the theory of language, have an enduring quality. One of the areas he investigated was the role of imagination, testimony, and trust which is a chapter in the book by Ricoeur entitled On Paul Ricoeur: the Owl of Minerva by Richard Kearney

nurturing authentic relationships of mutual respect between self and the other-I.


It started with a metaphor: The El-Zekkum is a thorny tree which symbolizes a very severe punishment and bitter remorse for those who lack spiritual discernment. By deceiving themselves and choosing an unhealthy path, they prefer an illusion of reality— a tree whose fruit resembles the almond but is extremely bitter– to the delicious, merciful and spiritual food of Divine Reality.

So I tried to map the metaphor.

See My Google Map entitled Mapping Metaphors: Zeqqumhere. This map will be updated as I find new relevant links.

Metaphor (metapherein Gr. meta: between phero:to bear) the description of one thing as something else, can be traced as far back as Ur. Since the 1960s and 1970s continental philosophers such as Derrida and Ricoeur have revisited the term.

A friend who has lived in Saudi Arabia has seen this plant which is also referred to in the Koran the as Tree of Zaqqum ( Surah 44 verse 43). And she found this photo of of a Zaqqum Tree in At Ta’if by Naseem Najd whose site includes great travel photos of Ta’if.

Then I found this photo of the similar Eltham Indian Fig, or Sweet Prickly Pear (Opuntia dillenii) with the fruits. Coastal semidesert altitude zone, Teno peninsula. North-west coast of the Tenerife Island, Canary Archipelago taken by Alexander Bogolyubov, January, 2008.

In wikipedia the reference claims that Zaqqum (Arabic: زقوم‎) is a tree that Muslims believe grows in Jahannam (hell). The Khati’un are compelled to eat Adh-Dhari, bitter fruit, to intensify their torment (Qur’an 69:36-37). The Khati’un may eat only the fruit or Ghislin (foul pus from the washing of their wounds) (Qur’an 69:36). Its fruits are shaped like devils’ heads (Qur’an 37:62-68). According to Shaykh Umar Sulayman Al-Ashqar, a professor at the University of Jordan, once the palate of the sinners is satiated, the fruit in their bellies churns like burning oil. Some Islamic scholars believe the fruit tears their bodies apart and releases bodily fluids. The Qur’an says: [44.43] Surely the tree of the Zaqqum, [44.44] Is the food of the sinful [44.45] Like dregs of oil; it shall boil in (their) bellies,
[44.46] Like the boiling of hot water.[1] The name zaqqum has been applied to the species Euphorbia abyssinica by the Beja people in eastern Sudan.[2] In Jordan, it is applied to the species Balanites aegyptiaca.[3]

“Is that better entertainment or the Tree of Zaqqum? For We have truly made it (as) a trial for the wrongdoers. For it is a tree that springs out of the bottom of Hellfire: The shoots of its fruit-stalks are like the heads of devils: Truly they will eat thereof and fill their bellies therewith. Then on top of that they will be given a mixture made of boiling water… (Surah Al-Saffat Those Ranged in Ranks Surah 37:Verse 62 – 67)”

“Verily the tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinful, -like molten brass; it will boil in their insides, like the boiling of scalding water. (Surah Al-Dukhan – Smoke – Surah 44:Verse 43 – 46)”

“Then will you truly, O you that go wrong, and treat (Truth) as falsehood! ‘You will surely taste of the Tree of Zaqqum. Then will you fill your insides there with. (Surah Al-Waqi’ah-The Inevitable Event-Surah 56:Verse 51 – 53)”

Zakkum is listed by L. J. Musselman (2003) in his publication entitled “Trees in the Koran and the Bible.” Of the 22 trees of the Bible, the date palm, fig, olive, pomegranate and tamarisk are also included in the Koran. Unique to the Koran are the talh (scholars are undecided as to whether this is the banana plant, which is not a tree, or a species of the widespread genus Acacia), the sidr (a thorn bush, probably Zizyphus spina-christi) and the mysterious and foul “tree of Hell”, or zaqqm (As-Saffat 37:65, Ad-Dukhn 44:49, Al-Waqi’a 56:51): “Is this not a better welcome than the zaqqm tree? We have made this tree a scourge for the unjust. It grows in the nethermost part of Hell, bearing fruit like devils’ heads: on it they shall feed, and with it they shall cram their bellies, together with draughts of scalding water. Then to Hell shall they return.” Musselman also noted that “Similarly, in eastern Sudan, the Beja people call the large, arborescent cactus Euphorbia abyssinica “zaqqm” after the tree of Hell mentioned in the Koran. It is unlikely that the conception of the zaqqm in the Koran was based on this succulent, since the zaqqm fruit was described as resembling a devil’s head, for instance. It is perhaps owing to its very bitter sap that Euphorbia abyssinica has been likened to the zaqqm.” He also added that, “In the Koran, trees are most frequently cited as gifts of a beneficent Creator, with the notable exception of the tree of Hell, zaqqm. In both scriptures, fruits from trees are highly valued (Musselman 2003:45-7) .”


1. Jean Léonard, whose work (1981-1992) entitled “Contribution à l’étude de la flore et de la végétation des déserts d’Iran (Dasht-e-Kavir, Dasht-e-Lut, Jaz Murian)” was published by the Jardin Botanique National de Belgique (The National Botanic Garden of Belgium) may have insight into the plant referred to be .

2. maps work on the basis of a totalizing classification (Anderson 1991 [1983]).

3. In her book entitled Naming Nature: the Clash between Instinct and Science, (2009) biologist, science writer (New York Times, Science, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times Carol Kaesuk Yoon calls for a reclamation of the scientific field of taxonomy, the ordering and naming of things. As science educator-consultant (Cornell University, Microsoft) she encourages critical thinking in biology.

4. “O thou who art partaking of the Heavenly Food! Know thou verily the Divine Food is descending from heaven, but only those taste thereof who are directed to the light of guidance, and only those can enjoy it who are endowed with a sound taste. Otherwise every diseased soul disliketh the delicious and merciful food and this is because of the sickness which hath seized him, whereby the El-Zekkum [1] is sweet (to his taste) while he fleeth from the ripe fruit of the Tree of the Living and Pre-existent God — and there is no wonder in that. [1 El-Zekkum — a thorny tree so called, which bears fruit like an almond, but extremely bitter. Therefore the tree symbolizes a very severe punishment and bitter remorse for the unbelievers.] In a similar way, thou beholdest some women who have abandoned the Testament, and to them the bitterness of discord is sweet. They keep aloof from the Extended Shadow and dwell under the shade of a “black smoke.” Alas for them and grief for them! They will surely lament and find themselves in loss. Verily, this is but an evident truth! (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 130-1).

5. “Yet I had planted thee, a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?” Jeremiah 2:21. 21st Century King James Version. Try <a href="“>also

 21Yet I had planted thee, a noble vine, wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?


6. For an image and botanical description of Euphorbia abyssinica [zaqqum]:“Montane vegetation of the Red Sea hills: Up to 2 260 m high, these hills are situated in the north-eastern edge of the Sudan. The seaward facing slopes of the hills have a winter rainfall, while those not facing the sea have a very low summer rainfall. Mist and clouds have an important effect on the vegetation. A few localities enjoy both summer and winter rains. Near the Eritrean border, forests of Juniperus procera are found, with a few well-stocked areas but most ravaged by fire and overgrazing. Associated with Juniperus is Olea chrysophylla. Characteristic plants of the drier parts of this range include Dracaena ombet and Euphorbia abyssinica [zaqqum].” (www.euphorbia.de/e_abyssinica).”

7. For a botanical illustration of Balanites aegyptiaca [zaqqum]

Paradeiooj Greek? – Garden

My Webliography and Bibliography

Tigay, Jeffrey Howard. Paradise.

Léonard, Jean. 1981-1992. “Contribution à l’étude de la flore et de la végétation des déserts d’Iran (Dasht-e-Kavir, Dasht-e-Lut, Jaz Murian). Jardin Botanique National de Belgique.

Jeffrey Howard Tigay’s Bibliography

J. Frazer, Folklore in the Old Testament, 1 (1919), 45–77; Th. C. Vriezen, Orderzoek naar de paradijs-voorstelling bij de oude Semietische Volken (1937), incl. bibl.;

P. Humbert, Etudes sur le rMcit du paradis et de la chute dans la GenIse (1940), incl. bibl.; U. Cassuto, in: Studies in Memory of M. Schorr (1944), 248–58;

J. L. Mc-Kenzie, in: Theological Studies, 15 (1954), 541–72; E. A. Speiser, in: BASOR, 140 (1955), 9–11; idem, in: Festschrift Johannes Friedrich (1959), 473–85;

R. Gordis, in: JBL, 76 (1957), 123–38; B. S. Childs, Myth and Reality in the Old Testament (19622), 43–50; N. M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis (1966), 23–28;

T. H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament (1969), 6–50, 327–71; J. A. Bailey, in: JBL, 89 (1970), 137–50. See also Commentaries to Genesis 2:4–3.

R. H. Charles, Eschatology (19632); K. Kohler, Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion (1923);

H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 4 (1928), 1928), 1016–65.


Following in the footsteps of great Western philosopher’s peripatetic origins (Socrates, Nietzsche, Rousseau, Kierkegaard and Walter Benjamin) Writer and Director Astra Taylor invited Cornel West (Cultural Studies scholar and campaign advisor to Barack Obama), Avital Ronell (who co-taught a graduate course with the late Jacques Derrida), Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Slavo Zizek, Judith Butler and her own sister Sunara Taylor to walk the talk while examining contemporary social and ethical issues in her 2008 documentary The Examined Life. Following Philadelphia curator and academic Aaron Levy’s suggestion that camera shy or timid speakers might be more comfortable walking, and enthused by Rebecca Solnit’s book Wanderlust, “a magisterial history of walking,” Astra Taylor decided to ask the big questions using the peripatetic approach. She filmed Cornel West in the back of a New York city cab as it wove through traffic. Peter Singer navigated Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue , a high-end shopping area with luxury items reflected in windows and on shopping bags flashing behind him. She chose a garbage dump as backdrop for Slavoj Zizek’s conversation on ecology. In this a series of vignettes she attempts to demonstrate the accessibility of philosophy, reiterating Isaiah Berlin and Bertrand Russell that, “the central visions of the great philosophers are essentially simple.” Through this documentary she stresses the urgency for a philosophy with a cosmopolitical point of view as “the myriad problems facing us [in our broken world . . . one beset by problems both interpersonal and political], demand more thinking than ever, not less.” Philosophy helps us to “search for meaning and our responsibilities to others in a [world] full of inequity and suffering.”






Digitage on Barbara Kruger's Nature/Culture Barbara Krueger’s (1983) “We Won’t Play Nature to your Culture” somehow comes to mind when reading Žižek on nature/culture.

During breaks I would walk through empty rooms to discover changes curators had made in their spaces. I was a teenager when I began to feel at home in the silent, often light-filled buildings that held public art collections. I was annoyed by, resented, then was intrigued by, read about, studied, spent time with pieces that came to be my favourites. Visual artists were deeply informed about and experimenting with emerging, complex theories, cultural studies, political philosophy . . . academics did their best to avoid them until it became impossible to do so.

Reading Slavoj Žižek’s Organs without Bodies is a lot like my non-linear NGC meanderings in the 1990s. His writing provokes me but there is enough brilliance there that makes me keep his book in the reading stand beside my monitor, opened at different pages on different days. He is not a lazy thinker. Each page is like a hypertext reader indexing a myriad of artists, philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs. He discusses Hawkins, Hegel, Heidegger and Hitchcock with equal comfort because he has actually ‘read’ and analysed’ their work.

I was drawn to his chapter section on hyphen-ethics more because of the probing, unsettling questions it raises than because of his conclusions. It will be one of those recurring themes that will be part of my own lifelong teaching, learning and research.

“What is false with todays discussion concerning the ethical consequences of biogenetics is that it is rapidly turning into what Germans call Bindenstrich-Ethik, the ethics of the hyphen – technology-ethics, environment-ethics, and so on. This ethics does have a role to play, a role homologous to that of the provisional ethic Descartes mentions at the beginning of his Discourse on Method: when we engage on a new path, full of dangers and shattering new insights, we need to stick to old established rules as a practical guide for our daily lives, although we are well aware that the new insights will compel us to provide a fresh foundation for our entire ethical edifice (in Descartes case, this new foundation was provided by Kant, in his ethics of subjective autonomy). Today, we are in the same predicament: the provisional ethics cannot replace the need for a thorough reflection of the emerging New (Žižek 2004:123).”

“In short, what gets lost here, in this hyphen-ethics, is simply ethics as such. The problem is not that universal ethics gets dissolved in particular topics but, on the contrary, that particular scientific breakthroughs are directly confronted with the old humanist “values” (say, how biogenetics affects our sense of dignity and autonomy). This, then, is the choice we are confronting today: either we choose the typically postmodern stance of reticence (let’s not go to the end, let’s keep a proper distance toward the scientific Thing so that this Thing will not draw us into a black hole, destroying all our moral and human notions), or we dare to “tarry with the negative (das Verweilen beim Negativen),” that is, we dare to fully examine the consequences of scientific modernity with the wager that “our Mind is a genome” will also function as an infinite judgment (Žižek 2004:123-4).”

“The main consequence of the scientific breakthrough in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of its construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is thus “desubstantialized,” deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called “earth.” Biogenetics, with its reduction of the human psyche itself to an object of technological manipulation, is therefore effectively a kind of empirical instantiation of what Heidegger perceived as the “danger” inherent to modern technology. Crucial here is the interdepedence of man and nature: by reducing man to just another object whose properties can be manipulated, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right. Humanity itself relies on some notion of “human nature” as what we inherited and was simply given to us, the impenetrable dimension in/of ourselves into which we are born/thrown. The paradox is thus that there is man only insofar as there is inhuman nature (Heidegger’s “earth”). (Žižek 2004:124).”

Slavoj Žižek is a dialectical-materialist philosopher and psychoanalyst. He also co-directs the International Centre for Humanities at Birkbeck College. The Parallax View appeared last year.

Webliography and Bibliography

Žižek, Slavoj. 2004. “Against hyphen-ethics.” Organs without Bodies: on Deleuze and Consequences. New York/London: Routledge. pp. 123-132.

Titles >> Subtitles: Organs without Bodies >> on Deleuze and Consequences >> Consequences >> Science >> Cognitivism with Freud, Autopoiesis, Memes, Memes Everywhere, Against Hyphen-Ethics, Cognitive Closure?, “Little Jolts of Enjoyment”,

folksonomy: cultural studies, theory, philosophy, Deleuze, globalization, democracy, democratization, war on terror, Joan Copjec, biogenetics, hyphen-ethics, capitalism, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Derrida, Daniel Dennett, ethics, Ethical turn, Habermas, Kant, Laclau, Levinas, Lacan, Varela, religion, Pascal, Spinoza, The Quite American, Hegel, Heidegger, Massumi, Fukuyama, liberal democracy, Self, personhood, ethics, mind/brain, mind body, psychoanalysis, nature/culture, technology, mind and consciousness,

More by Slavoj Žižek:

Žižek, Slavoj. 2003. “Bring me my Philips Mental Jacket: Slavoj Žižek welcomes the prospect of biogenetic intervention.” London Review of Books. 25:10. May.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. “Attempts to Escape the Logic of Capitalism.” Review of Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts by John Keane.” London Review of Books. 21:21. October 28.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. ‘You May!’ London Review of Books. 21:6. 18 March.