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  1. Conspiracy Theories, Scepticism, and Non-Liberal Politics.Fred Matthews - 2023 - Social Epistemology 37 (5):626-636.
    There has been much interest in conspiracy theories (CTs) amongst philosophers in recent years. The aim of this paper will be to apply some of the philosophical research to issues in political theory. I will first provide an overview of some of the philosophical discussions about CTs. While acknowledging that particularism is currently the dominant position in the literature, I will contend that the ‘undue scepticism problem’, a modified version of an argument put forward by Brian Keeley, is an important (...)
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  • The ambiguity of “true” in English, German, and Chinese.Kevin Reuter - 2024 - Asian Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):1-20.
    Through a series of empirical studies involving native speakers of English, German, and Chinese, this paper reveals that the predicate “true” is inherently ambiguous in the empirical domain. Truth statements such as “It is true that Tom is at the party” seem to be ambivalent between two readings. On the first reading, the statement means “Reality is such that Tom is at the party.” On the second reading, the statement means “According to what X believes, Tom is at the party.” (...)
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  • Misinformation, Content Moderation, and Epistemology: Protecting Knowledge.Keith Raymond Harris - 2024 - Routledge.
    This book argues that misinformation poses a multi-faceted threat to knowledge, while arguing that some forms of content moderation risk exacerbating these threats. It proposes alternative forms of content moderation that aim to address this complexity while enhancing human epistemic agency. The proliferation of fake news, false conspiracy theories, and other forms of misinformation on the internet and especially social media is widely recognized as a threat to individual knowledge and, consequently, to collective deliberation and democracy itself. This book argues (...)
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  • What is Interesting about Conspiracy Theories?Melina Tsapos - manuscript
    It is not clear that scholars, when they use the term ‘conspiracy theory’, are in fact interested in investigating the phenomenon of conspiracy theories and belief in them as such. I consider two perspectives found in the fast-growing literature on conspiracy theories: The Faux-pas View and The Neutral View. I argue that there is a difference in scholarly motivation, or at a very minimum a difference in the sustaining motivation for the research paradigms. What the motivations are is much too (...)
     
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  • On the origin of conspiracy theories.Patrick Brooks - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (12):3279-3299.
    Conspiracy theories are rather a popular topic these days, and a lot has been written on things like the meaning of _conspiracy theory_, whether it’s ever rational to believe conspiracy theories, and on the psychology and demographics of people who believe conspiracy theories. But very little has been said about why people might be led to posit conspiracy theories in the first place. This paper aims to fill this lacuna. In particular, I shall argue that, in open democratic societies, citizens (...)
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  • Can You Keep a Secret? BS Conspiracy Theories and the Argument from Loose Lips.Ryan Ross - forthcoming - Episteme:1-20.
    According to an argument that I will call the argument from loose lips, we can safely reject certain notorious conspiracy theories because they posit conspiracies that would be nearly impossible to keep secret. I distinguish between three versions of this argument: the epistemic argument, the alethic argument, and the statistical argument. I, then, discuss several limitations of the argument from loose lips. The first limitation is that only the statistical argument can be applied to new conspiracy theories. The second limitation (...)
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  • Hazards of Conceptual Engineering: Revisiting the Case of ‘Conspiracy Theory’.Matthew Shields - 2024 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 13 (2):74-90.
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  • Bayesian belief protection: A study of belief in conspiracy theories.Nina Poth & Krzysztof Dolega - 2023 - Philosophical Psychology 36 (6):1182-1207.
    Several philosophers and psychologists have characterized belief in conspiracy theories as a product of irrational reasoning. Proponents of conspiracy theories apparently resist revising their beliefs given disconfirming evidence and tend to believe in more than one conspiracy, even when the relevant beliefs are mutually inconsistent. In this paper, we bring leading views on conspiracy theoretic beliefs closer together by exploring their rationality under a probabilistic framework. We question the claim that the irrationality of conspiracy theoretic beliefs stems from an inadequate (...)
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  • Conspiracy Theory and (or as) Folk Psychology.Brian L. Keeley - 2023 - Social Epistemology 37 (4):413-422.
    One issue within conspiracy theory theory is whether, or to what extent, our central concept – – should map on to the common, lay sense of the term. Some conspiracy theory theorists insist that we use the term as everyday people use it. So, for example, if the term has a pejorative connotation in everyday parlance, then academic work on the concept should reflect that. Other conspiracy theory theorists take a more revisionist approach, arguing instead that while their use of (...)
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  • Is ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Harmful? A Reply to Foster and Ichikawa.Scott Hill - 2023 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 12 (9):27-31.
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  • Rethinking conspiracy theories.Matthew Shields - 2022 - Synthese 200 (4):1-29.
    I argue that that an influential strategy for understanding conspiracy theories stands in need of radical revision. According to this approach, called ‘generalism’, conspiracy theories are epistemically defective by their very nature. Generalists are typically opposed by particularists, who argue that conspiracy theories should be judged case-by-case, rather than definitionally indicted. Here I take a novel approach to criticizing generalism. I introduce a distinction between ‘Dominant Institution Conspiracy Theories and Theorists’ and ‘Non-Dominant Institution Conspiracy Theories and Theorists’. Generalists uncritically center (...)
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  • Some Conspiracy Theories.M. R. X. Dentith - 2023 - Social Epistemology (4):522-534.
    A remarkable feature of the philosophical work on conspiracy theory theory has been that most philosophers agree there is nothing inherently problematic about conspiracy theories (AKA the thesis of particularism). Recent work, however, has challenged this consensus view, arguing that there really is something epistemically wrong with conspiracy theorising (AKA generalism). Are particularism and generalism incompatible? By looking at just how much particularists and generalists might have to give away to make their theoretical viewpoints compatible, I will argue that particularists (...)
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  • Some problems with particularism.Keith Raymond Harris - 2022 - Synthese 200 (6):1-16.
    Particularists maintain that conspiracy theories are to be assessed individually, while generalists hold that conspiracy theories may be assessed as a class. This paper seeks to clarify the nature and importance of the debate between particularism and generalism, while offering an argument for a version of generalism. I begin by considering three approaches to the definition of conspiracy theory, and offer reason to prefer an approach that defines conspiracy theories in opposition to the claims of epistemic authorities. I argue that (...)
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  • Why We Should Be Suspicious of Conspiracy Theories: A Novel Demarcation Problem.Maarten Boudry - 2022 - Episteme 20 (3):611-631.
    What, if anything, is wrong with conspiracy theories (CTs)? A conspiracy refers to a group of people acting in secret to achieve some nefarious goal. Given that the pages of history are full of such plots, however, why are CTs often regarded with suspicion and even disdain? According to “particularism,” the currently dominant view among philosophers, each CT should be evaluated on its own merits and the negative reputation of CTs as a class is wholly undeserved. In this paper, I (...)
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  • ”That’s Just a Conspiracy Theory!”: Relevant Alternatives, Dismissive Conversational Exercitives, and the Problem of Premature Conclusions.Rico Hauswald - 2023 - Social Epistemology 37 (4):494-509.
    Drawing on the relevant alternatives framework and Mary Kate McGowan’s work on conversational scorekeeping, I argue that usage of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ in ordinary language and public discourse typically entails the performance of what I call a dismissive conversational exercitive, a kind of speech act that functions to exclude certain propositions from (or prevent their inclusion in) the set of alternatives considered relevant in a given conversational context. While it can be legitimate to perform dismissive conversational exercitives, excluding alternatives (...)
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  • When to Dismiss Conspiracy Theories Out of Hand.Ryan Ross - 2023 - Synthese 202 (3):1-26.
    Given that conspiracies exist, can we be justified in dismissing conspiracy theories without concerning ourselves with specific details? I answer this question by focusing on contrarian conspiracy theories, theories about conspiracies that conflict with testimony from reliable sources of information. For example, theories that say the CIA masterminded the assassination of John F. Kennedy, 9/11 was an inside job, or the Freemasons are secretly running the world are contrarian conspiracy theories. When someone argues for a contrarian conspiracy theory, their options (...)
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  • Normativity in studying conspiracy theory belief: Seven guidelines.Rik Peels, Nora Kindermann & Chris Ranalli - 2023 - Philosophical Psychology 36 (6):1125-1159.
    This paper aims to provide clear guidelines for researchers studying conspiracy theory belief. It examines the meta-linguistic question about how we should conceptualize 'conspiracy theory' and its relationship to the evaluative question of how we should evaluate beliefs in conspiracy theories, addressing normative issues surrounding the meaning, use, and conceptualization of ‘conspiracy theory’, as well as how these issues might impact how researchers study conspiracy theories or beliefs in them It argues that four norms, the Empirical Accuracy Norm, the Linguistic (...)
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  • The Normative Turn in Conspiracy Theory Theory?Patrick Stokes - 2023 - Social Epistemology 37 (4):535-543.
    The papers contained in this special issue are evidence that the philosophy of conspiracy theory is undergoing a ‘normative turn’, with earlier concerns about the epistemological soundness of conspiracy theories now being supplemented by a shift to concerns about discursive and epistemic justice. This is a welcome development. Nonetheless, these normative concerns need to be seen within the context of an ongoing and largely undeclared disagreement between generalists and particularists over just how conspired the world really is.
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  • Does the Phrase “Conspiracy Theory” Matter?M. R. X. Dentith, Ginna Husting & Martin Orr - 2023 - Society.
    Research on conspiracy theories has proliferated since 2016, in part due to the US election of President Trump, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasingly threatening environmental conditions. In the rush to publication given these concerning social consequences, researchers have increasingly treated as definitive a 2016 paper by Michael Wood (Political Psychology, 37(5), 695–705, 2016) that concludes that the phrase “conspiracy theory” has no negative effect upon people’s willingness to endorse a claim. We revisit Wood’s findings and its (re)uptake in the recent (...)
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  • Betting on Conspiracy: A Decision Theoretic Account of the Rationality of Conspiracy Theory Belief.Melina Tsapos - 2024 - Erkenntnis 89 (2):1-19.
    The question of the rationality of conspiratorial belief ¬divides philosophers into mainly two camps. The particularists believe that each conspiracy theory ought to be examined on its own merits. The generalist, by contrast, argues that there is something inherently suspect about conspiracy theories that makes belief in them irrational. Recent empirical findings indicate that conspiratorial thinking is commonplace among ordinary people, which has naturally shifted attention to the particularists. Yet, even the particularist must agree that not all conspiracy belief is (...)
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  • Normativity and Concepts of Bodily Sensations.Kevin Reuter - forthcoming - Studia Philosophica: Jahrbuch Der Schweizerischen Philosoph Ischen Gesellschaft, Annuaire de la Société Suisse de Philosphie .
    This paper challenges the philosophical assumption that bodily sensations are free from normative constraints. It examines the normative status of bodily sensations through two studies: a corpus-linguistic analysis and an experimental investigation. The corpus analysis shows that while emotions are frequently subject to normative judgments concerning their appropriateness, similar attitudes are less evident towards bodily sensations like feelings of pain, hunger and cold. In contrast, however, the experimental study reveals notable differences in conceptions of bodily sensations. It finds that sensations (...)
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  • Conspiracy theories are not theories: Time to rename conspiracy theories.Kevin Reuter & Lucien Baumgartner - forthcoming - In Manuel Gustavo Isaac, Steffen Koch & Kevin Scharp (eds.), New Perspectives on Conceptual Engineering. Springer.
    This paper presents the results of two corpus studies investigating the discourse surrounding conspiracy theories and genuine theories. The results of these studies show that conspiracy theories lack the epistemic and scientific standing characteristic of theories more generally. Instead, our findings indicate that conspiracy theories are spread in a manner that resembles the dissemination of rumors and falsehoods. Based on these empirical results, we argue that it is time for both re-engineering conspiracy theory and for relabeling "conspiracy theory". We propose (...)
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  • On Ethically Informing Citizens About Political Conspiracies.Jukka Varelius - 2023 - Journal of Media Ethics 38 (2):93-103.
    Conspiracy theorizing can sometimes have regrettable features that speak for suppressing it. Yet, given that an adequately knowledgeable citizenry is a prerequisite of a healthy democracy, the public should be informed about politically important events, including political conspiracies. In this article, I focus on the relationship between informing citizens about political conspiracies and the kind of conspiracy theorizing that arguably should be suppressed. More precisely, I maintain that informing citizens about political conspiracies threatens to lead to the kind of conspiracy (...)
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  • Conceptual Engineering, Conceptual Domination, and the Case of Conspiracy Theories.Matthew Shields - 2023 - Social Epistemology 37 (4):464-480.
    Using the example of recent attempts to engineer the concept of conspiracy theory, I argue that philosophers should be far more circumspect in their approach to conceptual engineering than we have been – in particular, that we should pay much closer attention to the history behind and context that surrounds our target concept in order to determine whether it is a site of what I have elsewhere called ‘conceptual domination’. If it is, we may well have good reason to avoid (...)
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  • Normative Inference Tickets.Jen Foster & Jonathan Ichikawa - 2023 - Episteme:1-27.
    We argue that stereotypes associated with concepts like he-said–she-said, conspiracy theory, sexual harassment, and those expressed by paradigmatic slurs provide “normative inference tickets”: conceptual permissions to automatic, largely unreflective normative conclusions. These “mental shortcuts” are underwritten by associated stereotypes. Because stereotypes admit of exceptions, normative inference tickets are highly flexible and productive, but also liable to create serious epistemic and moral harms. Epistemically, many are unreliable, yielding false beliefs which resist counterexample; morally, many perpetuate bigotry and oppression. Still, some normative (...)
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  • Why We Should Be Suspicious of Conspiracy Theories: A Novel Demarcation Problem.Maarten Boudry - 2021 - Episteme:1-21.
    What, if anything, is wrong with conspiracy theories? A conspiracy refers to a group of people acting in secret to achieve some nefarious goal. Given that the pages of history are full of such plots, however, why are CTs often regarded with suspicion and even disdain? According to “particularism,” the currently dominant view among philosophers, each CT should be evaluated on its own merits and the negative reputation of CTs as a class is wholly undeserved. In this paper, I defend (...)
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  • A puzzle of epistemic paternalism.Rory Aird - 2023 - Philosophical Psychology 36 (5):1011-1029.
    Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, conspiracy theories, misinformation, and fake news about the virus have abounded, drastically affecting global health measures to oppose it. In response, different strategies have been proposed to combat such Covid-19 collective irrationalities. One suggested approach has been that of epistemic paternalism – non-consultative interference in agents’ inquiries for their epistemic improvement. While extant literature on epistemic paternalism has mainly discussed whether it is (ever) justified, in this paper, I primarily focus (...)
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  • Tracing thick and thin concepts through corpora.Kevin Https://Orcidorg Reuter, Lucien Baumgartner & Pascale Willemsen - 2024 - Language and Cognition.
    Philosophers and linguists currently lack the means to reliably identify evaluative concepts and measure their evaluative intensity. Using a corpus-based approach, we present a new method to distinguish evaluatively thick and thin adjectives like ‘courageous’ and ‘awful’ from descriptive adjectives like ‘narrow,’ and from value-associated adjectives like ‘sunny.’ Our study suggests that the modifiers ‘truly’ and ‘really’ frequently highlight the evaluative dimension of thick and thin adjectives, allowing for them to be uniquely classified. Based on these results, we believe our (...)
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  • Conceptual Revision in Action.Ethan Landes & Kevin Reuter - manuscript
    Conceptual engineering is the practice of revising concepts to improve how people talk and think. Its ability to improve talk and thought ultimately hinges on the successful dissemination of desired conceptual changes. Unfortunately, the field has been slow to develop methods to directly test what barriers stand in the way of propagation and what methods will most effectively propagate desired conceptual change. In order to test such questions, this paper introduces the masked time-lagged method. The masked time-lagged method tests people's (...)
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  • Should We be Generalists about Official Stories? A Response to Hayward.Will Mittendorf - 2023 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 12 (10):36-43.
    In “The Applied Epistemology of Official Stories” (2023), Tim Hayward offers a thorough and convincing rejection of Neil Levy’s claim that we ought to defer to official stories from relevant epistemic authorities. In this response, I take no issue with Hayward’s criticism of Levy. Rather, I suggest that Hayward’s position could go further, and he already implies a deeper problem with the concept of an ‘official story’. In fact, I’m so swayed by several of his claims against things called ‘official (...)
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  • Conceptual Engineering Should be Empirical.Ethan Landes - manuscript
    Conceptual engineering is a philosophical method that aims to design and spread conceptual and linguistic devices to cause meaningful changes in the world. So far, however, conceptual engineers have struggled to successfully spread the conceptual and linguistic entities they have designed to their target communities. This paper argues that conceptual engineering is far more likely to succeed if it incorporates empirical data and empirical methods. Because the causal factors influencing successful propagation of linguistic or conceptual devices are as complicated and (...)
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