Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Soazig Le Bihan

Commitee Members

Dr. Christopher Preston, Dr. Christopher Muste, Dr. Kevin Elliott


public trust; political reconciliation; public distrust; warranted epistemic distrust; political apology; repairing public trust in science


University of Montana


The ability of science-based policy to promote public welfare is contingent upon the presence of warranted public trust. However, as exposed by the case of COVID-19 vaccination efforts, public trust in the scientific community is not so readily attained. Many communities, particularly those who are systematically marginalized, have suffered severe harm in the name of scientific advancement. As a manifestation of tarnished rapport, individuals within these communities arguably engage in warranted distrust. While many scholars have attempted to articulate the conditions for warranted public trust in science, proposals have failed to account for the non-neutral state of the relationship between harmed members of the public and the scientific community. The aim of this paper is to (1) characterize the normative conditions for warranted distrust in science and (2) provide a novel analysis of reparative trust between the harmed public and the scientific community. I provide a five-step process of political reconciliation that imagines an avenue to renewed public trust through political apology and emotional reparation. This account departs from the current paradigm in four primary ways: (i) it intends to foster recognition of the other through shared narrative and sympathy; (ii) it excavates the roots of generational trauma and mutual resentment; (iii) it commits wrong-doing to the moral memory of the public; (iv) it imagines a mutually restorative healing process that builds trust between stakeholders.



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