Montage of Annette Baier bookcovers Copyrighted image Credit: Controlled

New Zealand born Annette Baier is a scholar of Hume and a moral philosopher for whom trust is the key to fundamental moral notions. Morality, according to Baier in her book Moral Prejudices, should not be governed by rules and codes, but by trust: a moral prejudice. Writing from a feminist perspective, she is preoccupied with the idea of vulnerability and inequalities of vulnerability, and with trust and distrust between equals. She explores the implications of trusting and trust, rather than proscribing action.

Baier takes an ethical stance that focuses on the importance of membership within a moral community, and explores the notion of trust, particularly between the genders. In What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory? (1983), she argues that trust provides a vital link between traditional male accounts of rational obligation and the female ‘ethics of love’.

Women, according to Baier, operate in a different system of ethics than men. Males base their ethic on obligation (or justice), whereas women depend on ethics of caring (or trust). The history of moral philosophy, having been written by men, does not account for this gender difference. Men, for example, would say that lying is wrong, but do not deal with whose obligation it is teach children not to lie. Is this the obligation of parents or society?

Baier also questions the role of trust in relations of inequality, such as between women and men, or children and parents, whether women can trust other women more easily than they can trust men.