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Sunday, January 16, 2022


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Hi Bill

I agree that at the end we don't disagree much -- I did have in mind a point similar to your expression that "if I deem a person overall trustworthy with respect to what he asserts, I may, consistent with that overall trust, tell the person that I need to verify a specific assertion that the person makes."

I'll elaborate a bit further. I followed your narrowing down of "trust" to interpersonal situation. But I think it is relevant to remember for the specific Reagan-Gorbachev talks (and in many real life situations) that there are institutions behind individuals and their words - CIA, KGB and other military and political institutions provided a lot of content for the leaders (remember WMD in Iraq?). If Gorbachev said "Russia disarmed its atomic warheads as agreed" Reagan can believe that he is sincere, that he tells the truth as he knows and understands it, but Reagan is justified in not automatically believing that Gorbachev's statement reflects the truth on the ground. For example, Russian military intelligence could have interpreted the requirement to disarm warheads in a way that allows their re-armament in 15 minutes. Or the Soviet implementation of disarmament ignored a large stockpile stored in a Novosibirsk base (and it was concealed from Gorbachev).

Consider math: it took many months a large group of mathematicians to verify that Perelman's proof of Poincare's conjecture is true. They trusted him, but had to verify the proof. And the point is not peculiar to proofs and math. Looking for second opinions in medicine is also, at times, an illustration of "trust, but verify". Trustworthy B asserting that p may simply be not in a position to have a justified true belief that p -- p may be too complicated or too novel or too important to A to just trust B's assertion that it is true.

Just in case for the future: "Trust, but verify" is "Доверяй, но проверяй".

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