On Some Moral Costs of Conspiracy Theorizing

In M. R. X. Dentith (ed.), Taking Conspiracy Theories Seriously. London: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 189-202 (2018)
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Stokes’ earlier chapter in this volume argued that, given the role ethical considerations play in our judgments of what to believe, ethical factors will put limits on the extent to which we can embrace particularism about conspiracy theories. However, that will only be the case if there are ethical problems with conspiracy theory as a practice (rather than simply as a formal class of explanation). Utilising the Lakatosian framework for analysing conspiracy theories developed by Steve Clarke, this paper identifies a morally costly feature of conspiracy theorizing: its tendency to generate and expand new accusations purely to defend the core theory from countervailing evidence. Such 'auxiliary accusations' violate important norms around justified accusation, which supplies a defeasible, but important, reason to be reluctant to take part in the practice of conspiracy theorizing.



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Patrick Stokes
Deakin University

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