Popper revisited, or what is wrong with conspiracy theories?

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 25 (1):3-34 (1995)
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Abstract

Conpiracy theories are widely deemed to be superstitious. Yet history appears to be littered with conspiracies successful and otherwise. (For this reason, "cock-up" theories cannot in general replace conspiracy theories, since in many cases the cock-ups are simply failed conspiracies.) Why then is it silly to suppose that historical events are sometimes due to conspiracy? The only argument available to this author is drawn from the work of the late Sir Karl Popper, who criticizes what he calls "the conspiracy theory of society" in The Open Society and elsewhere. His critique of the conspiracy theory is indeed sound, but it is a theory no sane person maintains. Moreover, its falsehood is compatible with the prevalence of conspiracies. Nor do his arguments create any presumption against conspiracy theories of this or that. Thus the belief that it is superstitious to posit conspiracies is itself a superstition. The article concludes with some speculations as to why this superstition is so widely believed.

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Author's Profile

Charles R. Pigden
University of Otago

References found in this work

Objective Knowledge.K. R. Popper - 1972 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 4 (2):388-398.
The Idea of History.Robin George Collingwood - 1946 - Oxford University Press.
History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions.Imre Lakatos - 1970 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1970:91-136.
The Idea of History.R. G. COLLINGWOOD - 1946 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):252-253.

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