What are conspiracytheories? And what, if anything, is epistemically wrong with them? I offer an account on which conspiracytheories are a unique way of holding a belief in a conspiracy. Specifically, I take conspiracytheories to be self-insulating beliefs in conspiracies. On this view, conspiracy theorists have their conspiratorial beliefs in a way that is immune to revision by counter-evidence. I argue that conspiracytheories are always irrational. Although (...)conspiracytheories involve an expectation to encounter some seemingly disconfirming evidence (allegedly planted by the conspirators), resistance to all counter- evidence cannot be justified on these grounds. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic ‘oughts’ that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. I argue that the policy of systematically doubting or disbelieving conspiracytheories would be both a political disaster and the epistemic (...) equivalent of self-mutilation, since it leads to the conclusion that history is bunk and the nightly news unbelievable. In fact (of course) the policy is not employed systematically but is only wheeled on to do down theories that the speaker happens to dislike. I develop a deductive argument from hard-to-deny premises that if you are not a ‘conspiracy theorist’ in my anodyne sense of the word then you are an ‘idiot’ in the Greek sense of the word, that is, someone so politically purblind as to have no opinions about either history or public affairs. The conventional wisdom can only be saved (if at all) if ‘conspiracy theory’ is given a slanted definition. I discuss some slanted definitions apparently presupposed by proponents of the conventional wisdom (including, amongst others, Tony Blair) and conclude that even with these definitions the conventional wisdom comes out as deeply unwise. I finish up with a little harmless fun at the expense of David Aaronvitch whose abilities as a rhetorician and a popular historian are not perhaps matched by a corresponding capacity for logical thought. (shrink)
The epistemological literature on conspiracy theory has established that strict generalism about conspiracytheories is untenable. This chapter argues, however, that this does not license a move to naive or strict particularism. Rather, any consideration of specific conspiracy claims needs to address conspiracy theory not simply as a formal category of explanation, but as a distinctive social practice, with a history and explanatory repertoire that can give us important, if defeasible, reasons for rejecting at least (...) some such types of claim. These reasons are not merely epistemic. The moral costs of participating in such practices, and of levelling conspiracy accusations in general, generate corresponding ethical requirements for reticence about entertaining conspiracytheories. This doesn’t mean we can retreat to generalism; but it does mean particularism must be governed by a reluctance that, in practice, will rule out a great many conspiracy theory claims as candidates for serious investigation. (shrink)
I argue that that an influential strategy for understanding conspiracytheories stands in need of radical revision. According to this approach, called ‘generalism’, conspiracytheories are epistemically defective by their very nature. Generalists are typically opposed by particularists, who argue that conspiracytheories 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 ConspiracyTheories and Theorists’ and ‘Non-Dominant (...) Institution ConspiracyTheories and Theorists’. Generalists uncritically center the latter in their analysis, but I show why the former must be centered by generalists’ own lights: they are the clearest representatives of their views, and they are by far the most harmful. Once we make this change in paradigm cases, however, various typical generalist theses turn out to be false or in need of radical revision. Conspiracytheories are not primarily produced by extremist ideologies, as generalists typically claim, since mainstream, purportedly non-extremist political ideologies turn out to be just as, if not more responsible for such theories. Conspiracytheories are also, we find, not the province of amateurs: they are often created and pushed by individuals widely viewed as experts, who have the backing of our most prestigious intellectual institutions. While generalists may be able to take this novel distinction and shift in paradigm cases on board, this remains to be seen. Subsequent generalist accounts that do absorb this distinction and shift will look radically different from previous incarnations of the view. (shrink)
This paper develops a new kind of approach to conspiracytheories – a procedural approach. This approach promises to establish that belief in conspiracytheories is rationally criticisable in general. Unlike most philosophical approaches, a procedural approach does not purport to condemn conspiracy theorists directly on the basis of features of their theories. Instead, it focuses on the patterns of thought involved in forming and sustaining belief in such theories. Yet, unlike psychological approaches, (...) a procedural approach provides a rational critique of conspiracist thought patterns. In particular, it criticises these thought patterns for failing to conform to procedures prescribed by reason. The specific procedural approach that I develop takes its cue from the Kantian notion that reason must be used self-critically. I tentatively suggest that conspiracy theorists fail to engage in the relevant sort of self-critique in at least three ways: they do not critically examine their own motivations, they avoid looking at matters from the point of view of others, and they fail to reflect on the limits of human knowledge. (shrink)
Patrick Stokes has argued that although many conspiracytheories are true, we should reject the policy of particularism (that is, the policy of investigating conspiracytheories if they are plausible and believing them if that is what the evidence suggests) and should instead adopt a policy of principled skepticism, subjecting conspiracytheories – or at least the kinds of theories that are generally derided as such – to much higher epistemic standards than their (...) non-conspiratorial rivals, and believing them only if they are proven up to the hilt. The reason is that although some conspiracytheories are true (or otherwise epistemically kosher) there is a widespread practice of conspiracy theorizing which leads to the social acceptance of conspiracytheories which (much like Lord Byron) are mad, bad and dangerous to ‘know’, leading to radically false beliefs about the natural and political worlds (for instance to Trump’s claim that Global Warming is a ‘Chinese Hoax’). Thus Stokes is a defender of the epistemic status quo in which the punditocracy routinely dismisses and sneers at ‘conspiracytheories’, simply because they are conspiracytheories, whilst admitting sotto voce that once in a blue moon there are some conspiracytheories that are true. It is just the he would prefer the epistemic policy of the punditocracy to be the policy of the populace at large. Stokes seems to be suggesting that although particularism looks like a sensible epistemic policy (and might indeed be the correct policy in an ideal world), if it were put into practice at the level of public debate it would give a specious air of plausibility to many false and dangerous conspiracytheories with pernicious social effects. I reply that the actual moral costs of conspiracy ‘skepticism’ (as it is currently practiced) exceed the likely costs of particularism, especially if it is informed by some sensible heuristics, ruling out some conspiracytheories as crazy and ruling in others as relatively sane. For the conspiracy ‘skepticism’ as currently practiced is highly selective, pouring scorn and contempt on conspiracytheories which threaten current elites whilst giving the conspiratorial concoctions of those elites something close to a free pass. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories and conspiracy theorists have been accused of a great many sins, but are the conspiracytheoriesconspiracy theorists believe epistemically problematic? Well, according to some recent work, yes, they are. Yet a number of other philosophers like Brian L. Keeley, Charles Pigden, Kurtis Hagen, Lee Basham, and the like have argued ‘No!’ I will argue that there are features of certain conspiracytheories which license suspicion of such theories. I (...) will also argue that these features only license a limited suspicion of these conspiracytheories, and thus we need to be careful about generalising from such suspicions to a view of the warrant of conspiracytheories more generally. To understand why, we need to get to the bottom of what exactly makes us suspicious of certain conspiracytheories, and how being suspicious of a conspiracy theory does not always tell us anything about how likely the theory in question is to be false. (shrink)
Abstract Conspiracytheories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic “oughts” that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. But the beliefforming strategy of not believing conspiracytheories would be a political disaster and the epistemic equivalent of selfmutilation. (...) I discuss several variations of this strategy, interpreting “conspiracy theory” in different ways but conclude that on all these readings, the conventional wisdom is deeply unwise. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories are often portrayed as unwarranted beliefs, typically supported by suspicious kinds of evidence. Yet contemporary work in Philosophy argues provisional belief in conspiracytheories is at the very least understandable---because conspiracies occur---and that if we take an evidential approach, judging individual conspiracytheories on their particular merits, belief in such theories turns out to be warranted in a range of cases. -/- Drawing on this work, I examine the kinds of evidence (...) typically associated with conspiracytheories, and show how the so-called evidential problems with conspiracytheories are also problems for the kinds of evidence put forward in support of other theories. As such, if there is a problem with the conspiracy theorist's use of evidence, it is one of principle: is the principle which guides the conspiracy theorist's use of evidence somehow in error? I argue that whatever we might think about conspiracytheories generally, there is no prima facie case for a scepticism of conspiracytheories based purely on their use of evidence. (shrink)
Napolitano (2021) argues that the Minimalist Account of conspiracytheories—i.e., which defines conspiracytheories as explanations, or theories, about conspiracies—should be rejected. Instead, she proposes to define conspiracytheories as a certain kind of belief—i.e., an evidentially self-insulated belief in a conspiracy. Napolitano argues that her account should be favored over the Minimalist Account based on two considerations: ordinary language intuitions and theoretical fruitfulness. I show how Napolitano’s account fails its own purposes (...) with respect to these two considerations and so should not be favored over the Minimalist Account. Furthermore, I propose that the Minimalist Account is the best conception of ‘conspiracy theory’ if we share Napolitano’s goal of advancing the understanding of conspiracytheories. (shrink)
9/11 was an inside job. The Holocaust is a myth promoted to serve Jewish interests. The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were a false flag operation. Climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government. These are all conspiracytheories. A glance online or at bestseller lists reveals how popular some of them are. Even if there is plenty of evidence to disprove them, people persist in propagating them. Why? Philosopher Quassim Cassam explains how conspiracy (...)theories are different from ordinary theories about conspiracies. He argues that conspiracytheories are forms of propaganda and their function is to promote a political agenda. Although conspiracytheories are sometimes defended on the grounds that they uncover evidence of bad behaviour by political leaders, they do much more harm than good, with some resulting in the deaths of large numbers of people. There can be no clearer indication that something has gone wrong with our intellectual and political culture than the fact that conspiracytheories have become mainstream. When they are dangerous, we cannot afford to ignore them. At the same time, refuting them by rational argument is difficult because conspiracy theorists discount or reject evidence that disproves their theories. As conspiracytheories are so often smokescreens for political ends, we need to come up with political as well as intellectual responses if we are to have any hope of defeating them. (shrink)
Recent philosophical treatment of conspiracytheories supposes them all to be explanatory, thus overlooking those conspiracytheories whose major purpose is the assertion of ‘hidden facts’ rather than explanation of accepted facts. I call this variety of non-explanatory conspiracytheories “counterfact theories”. In this paper, through the use of examples, including the Obama birth certificate conspiracy theory, I uncover the distinctive reasoning pattern and dialectical strategy of counterfact theories, highlighting their epistemic (...) flaws. (shrink)
ConspiracyTheories The term “conspiracy theory” refers to a theory or explanation that features a conspiracy among a group of agents as a central ingredient. Popular examples are the theory that the first moon landing was a hoax staged by NASA, or the theory that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center were not … Continue reading ConspiracyTheories →.
The contributors to this volume argue that whilst there is a commonplace superstition conspiracytheories are examples of bad beliefs (and that the kind of people who believe conspiracytheories are typically irrational), many conspiracytheories are rational to believe: the members of the Dewey Commission were right to say that the Moscow Trials of the 1930s were a sham; Woodward and Bernstein were correct to think that Nixon was complicit in the conspiracy (...) to deny any wrongdoing in the Watergate Hotel break in; and if we either accept the terrorist events of 9/11 were committed by Al-Qaeda, or that the Bush Administration was responsible, then it seems we are endorsing some theory about a conspiracy to commit an act of terror on American soil. As such, there is no reason to reject conspiracytheories sui generis. This volume challenges the prima facie that conspiracytheories are irrational beliefs, arguing that we should treat conspiracytheories and the phenomena of conspiracytheories seriously. It presents fresh perspectives from the wider philosophical, sociological and psychological community on what is becoming an issue of increasing relevance in our time. (shrink)
While engaging in rich discussion, ConspiracyTheories analyzes current arguments and evidence while providing real-world examples so students can contextualize and visualize the debates. Each chapter addresses important current questions, provides conceptual tools, defines important terms, and introduces the appropriate methods of analysis.
In this paper I interrogate the notion of `debunking conspiracytheories’, arguing that the term `debunk’ carries with it pejorative implications, given that the verb `to debunk’ is commonly understood as `to show the wrongness of a thing or concept’. As such, the notion of `debunking conspiracytheories’ builds in the notion that such theories are not just wrong but ought to be shown as being wrong. I argue that we should avoid the term `debunk’ (...) and focus on investigating conspiracytheories. Looking at recent research work in epistemology on conspiracy theory, I argue that the best way to avoid talk of `debunking’ conspiracytheories is by working with a non-pejorative definition of `conspiracy theory’, and forming communities of inquiry which allow us to investigate the warrant of such theories without the prejudice associated with working with a pejorative definition. (shrink)
In this concluding chapter Dentith presents a synthesis of the views on offer, arguing that the various philosophical, sociological and psychology theses defended in this section point towards a necessary reorientation of the literature, one which requires we purge public discourse of the pejorative aspects of the terms ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘conspiracy theorist’ and, rather, engage with conspiracytheories as theories (like we do with theories in the Sciences and the Social Sciences) appraising them (...) on their particular merits. Not just that, but there is even room in our discourse to celebrate and promote conspiracy theorising (as we do theorising in other domains) given the need to be ever vigilant with respect to the existence of conspiracies in our polities. Sometimes, Dentith argues, that even requires that we treat some on-the-face-of-it ridiculous conspiracytheories seriously and ask how and who should investigate them. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories are often portrayed as unwarranted beliefs, typically supported by suspicious kinds of evidence. Yet contemporary work in Philosophy argues provisional belief in conspiracytheories is—at the very—least understandable and if we take an evidential approach—judging individual conspiracytheories on their particular merits—belief in such theories turns out to be warranted in a range of cases. Drawing on this work, I examine the kinds of evidence typically associated with conspiracytheories, (...) showing that the evidential problems typically associated with conspiracytheories are not unique to such theories. As such, if there is a problem with the conspiracy theorist’s use of evidence, it is one of principle: is the principle which guides their use of evidence somehow in error? I argue that whatever we might think about conspiracytheories generally, there is no prima facie case for a scepticism of conspiracytheories based purely on their use of evidence. (shrink)
The philosopher Quassim Cassam has described a concept called ‘ConspiracyTheories’ (capitalized) that includes several ‘special features’ that distinguish such theories from other theories positing conspiracies. ConspiracyTheories, he argues, are unlikely to be true. Indeed, he implies that they are, as a class of ideas, so unlikely to be true that we are justified in responding to them by criticizing the ideology they are (presumed to be) associated with, rather than engaging them solely (...) on their individual epistemic merits. This article argues that Cassam’s ‘special features’ are ambiguous. Under some interpretations, they are not epistemically problematic. Under other interpretations, they do not fairly describe many of the theories Cassam treats as examples of ConspiracyTheories. In the end, there seems to be no interpretation of these features that would justify the inference that theories Cassam treats as ConspiracyTheories, including JFK ConspiracyTheories, can be reasonably dismissed on account of having these features. (shrink)
As the end of the Millennium approaches, conspiracytheories are increasing in number and popularity. In this short essay, I offer an analysis of conspiracytheories inspired by Hume's discussion of miracles. My first conclusion is that whereas Hume can argue that miracles are, by definition, explanations we are not warranted in believing, there is nothing analytic that will allow us to distinguish good from bad conspiracytheories. There is no a priori method for (...) distinguishing warranted conspiracytheories (say, those explaining Watergate) from those which are unwarranted (say, theories about extraterrestrials abducting humans). Nonetheless, there is a cluster of characteristics often shared by unwarranted conspiracytheories. An analysis of the alleged explanatory virtues of unwarranted conspiracies suggests some reasons for their current popularity, while at the same time providing grounds for their rejection. Finally, I discuss how conspiracytheories embody an anachronistic world-view that places the contemporary zeitgeist in a clearer light. (shrink)
Many millions of people hold conspiracytheories; they believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event. A recent example is the belief, widespread in some parts of the world, that the attacks of 9/11 were carried out not by Al Qaeda, but by Israel or the United States. Those who subscribe to conspiracytheories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the (...) existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law. The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracytheories prosper; the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined. Such theories typically spread as a result of identifiable cognitive blunders, operating in conjunction with informational and reputational influences. A distinctive feature of conspiracytheories is their self-sealing quality. Conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy. Because those who hold conspiracytheories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology, in accordance with which it is rational to hold such theories, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups. Various policy dilemmas, such as the question whether it is better for government to rebut conspiracytheories or to ignore them, are explored in this light. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories are a popular topic of conversation in everyday life but are often frowned upon in academic discussions. Looking at the recent spate of philosophical interest in conspiracytheories, The Philosophy of ConspiracyTheories looks at whether the assumption that belief in conspiracytheories is typically irrational is well founded.
Conspiracytheories have a bad reputation. This is especially true in the academy and in the media. Within these institutions, to describe someone as a conspiracy theorist is often to imply that his or her views should not be taken seriously. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that philosophers have tended to ignore the topic, despite the enduring appeal of conspiracytheories in popular culture. Recently, however, some philosophers have at least treated conspiracy theorists (...) respectfully enough to try to articulate where they go wrong.I begin this paper by clarifying the nature of conspiracytheories. I then argue against some recent critiques of conspiracytheories. Many criticisms of conspiracytheories are unfounded. I also argue that unwillingness to entertain conspiracytheories is an intellectual and moral failing. I end by suggesting an Aristotelian approach to the issue, according to which the intellectual virtue of realism is a golden mean between the intellectual vices of paranoia and naivety. (shrink)
A reply to Patrick Stokes' 'Reluctance and Suspicion'—itself a reply to an early piece by myself replying to Stokes—in which I clarify what it is I intend when talking about how we should investigate conspiracytheories.
Quassim Cassam has argued that psychological and epistemological analyses of conspiracytheories threaten to overlook the political nature of such theories. According to Cassam, conspiracytheories are a form of political propaganda. I develop a limited critique of Cassam's analysis. -/- This paper advances two core theses. First, acceptance of conspiracytheories requires a rejection of epistemic authority that renders conspiracy theorists susceptible to co-option by certain political programs while insulating such programs (...) from criticism. I argue that the contrarian nature of conspiracytheories partially accounts for the prominence of such theories in populist movements. -/- Second, the contrarian nature of conspiracytheories partially accounts for their attractiveness, especially among those to whom populism already appeals. I argue that for those who resent what appears from their perspective as the shaping of the epistemic landscape by alien perspectives, conspiracy theorizing may facilitate the reassertion of epistemic autonomy. -/- . (shrink)
Political conspiracy theorists have done a lot of good in the past; undoubtedly they will do a lot of good in the future too. However, it is important to point out that conspiracytheories may have adverse consequences too. Political conspiracy theorizing, as a public activity, may lead to harmful scapegoating and its implications may be racist and fascist rather than democratic. Conspiracytheories may undermine trust in political institutions. Certain conspiracytheories (...) are kept artificially alive, because of their political effects; “conspiracy theorists” do not always believe in their theories, but repeat them in public because of politicalreasons. Conspiracytheories have close connections to populism, and when theories are accepted widely enough, they remind harmful rumors. Sometimes conspiracytheories are designed and disclosed to make political decision-making more difficult and to create an impression that certain questions are still “open”. Certain conspiracytheories are disguised libels: they place individual persons in a “false light” in the public eye. In my presentation, I aim to discuss the ethics of political conspiracy theorizing and conditions for ethically acceptable conspiracy theorizing. (shrink)
In the social science literature, conspiracytheories are commonly characterized as theories positing a vast network of evil and preternaturally effective conspirators, and they are often treated, either explicitly or implicitly, as dubious on this basis. This characterization is based on Richard Hofstadter’s famous account of ‘the paranoid style’. However, many significant conspiracytheories do not have any of the relevant qualities. Thus, the social science literature provides a distorted account of the general category ‘ (...) class='Hi'>conspiracy theory’, conflating it with a subset of that category that encourages unfairly negative evaluations of conspiracytheories. Generally, when evaluating theories, one should focus on the most plausible versions; the merit of a theory is independent of the existence of less plausible versions of it. By ignoring this and glossing over important distinctions, many academics, especially in the social sciences, have misclassified many conspiracytheories and in doing so have contributed to an epistemically unfair depiction of them. Further, even theories that genuinely fit the description of ‘the paranoid style’ cannot be completely dismissed on that basis. All conspiracytheories ought to be judged on the totality of their individual merits. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories have a bad reputation. In the past, most philosophers have ignored the topic, vaguely supposing that conspiracytheories are obviously irrational and that they can be easily dismissed. The current philosophical interest in the subject results from a realisation that this is not so. Some philosophers have taken up the challenge of identifying and explaining the flaws of conspiracytheories. Other philosophers have argued that conspiracytheories do not deserve their (...) bad reputation, and that conspiracy theorists do not deserve their reputation for irrationality. This book represents both sides of this important debate. Aimed at a broad philosophical community, including epistemologists, political philosophers, and philosophers of history. It represents a significant contribution to the growing interdisciplinary debate about conspiracytheories. (shrink)
The popularity of conspiracytheories poses a clear challenge for contemporary liberal democracies. Conspiracytheories undermine rational debate, spread dangerous falsehoods and threaten social cohesion. However, any possible public policy response, which would try to contain their spread, needs to respect the liberal commitment to protect pluralism and free speech. A successful justification of such a policy must therefore: 1) clearly identify the problematic class of conspiracytheories; and 2) clarify the grounds on which (...) the state is justified in acting against them. This article argues that the prevailing epistemic approaches to conspiracy theorizing cannot fulfil these criteria. Defining conspiracytheories by their flaws in reasoning, questionable coherence or factual mistakes can neither sharply distinguish problematic conspiracytheories from other, non-problematic worldviews nor justify state action. Thus, we propose to understand conspiracytheories through their ethical unreasonableness. We hold that containment of conspiracytheories is justifiable insofar as they undermine the liberal-democratic ideals of mutual respect, freedom and equality. We then show that such ‘ethical’ criteria for conspiracytheories can be sufficiently robust and clear-cut so that they can serve as a useful guide for public policy. (shrink)
We offer a particularist defense of conspiratorial thinking. We explore the possibility that the presence of a certain kind of evidence—what we call "fortuitous data"—lends rational credence to conspiratorial thinking. In developing our argument, we introduce conspiracytheories and motivate our particularist approach (§1). We then introduce and define fortuitous data (§2). Lastly, we locate an instance of fortuitous data in one real world conspiracy, the Watergate scandal (§3).
The dismissive attitude of intellectuals toward conspiracy theorists is considered and given some justification. It is argued that intellectuals are entitled to an attitude of prima facie skepticism toward the theories propounded by conspiracy theorists, because conspiracy theorists have an irrational tendency to continue to believe in conspiracytheories, even when these take on the appearance of forming the core of degenerating research program. It is further argued that the pervasive effect of the "fundamental (...) attribution error" can explain the behavior of such conspiracy theorists. A rival approach due to Brian Keeley, which involves the criticism of a subclass of conspiracytheories on epistemic grounds, is considered and found to be inadequate. Key Words: conspiracy conspiracytheories conspiracy theorizing. (shrink)
It has long been recognized that a local hidden variable theory of quantum mechanics can in principle be constructed, provided one is willing to countenance pre-measurement correlations between the properties of measured systems and measuring devices. However, this ‘conspiratorial’ approach is typically dismissed out of hand. In this article I examine the justification for dismissing conspiracytheories of quantum mechanics. I consider the existing arguments against such theories, and find them to be less than conclusive. I suggest (...) a more powerful argument against the leading strategy for constructing a conspiracy theory. Finally, I outline two alternative strategies for constructing conspiracytheories, both of which are immune to these arguments, but require one to either modify or reject the common cause principle. Introduction The incompleteness of quantum mechanics Hidden variables Hidden mechanism conspiracytheories Existing arguments against hidden mechanisms A new argument against hidden mechanisms Backwards-causal conspiracytheories Acausal conspiracytheories Conclusion. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories have historically had a bad reputation, with many philosophers dismissing the topic as irrational. Current philosophical debate has challenged this stance, suggesting that these theories do not deserve their bad reputation. This book represents both sides of the debate. Aimed at a broad philosophical community, including epistemologists, political philosophers, and philosophers of history, this book is a significant contribution to the growing interest in conspiracytheories.
Abstract Following Clarke (2002), a Lakatosian approach is used to account for the epistemic development of conspiracytheories. It is then argued that the hypercritical atmosphere of the internet has slowed down the development of conspiracytheories, discouraging conspiracy theorists from articulating explicit versions of their favoured theories, which could form the hard core of Lakatosian research pro grammes. The argument is illustrated with a study of the “controlled demolition” theory of the collapse of (...) three towers at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. (shrink)
Judging the warrant of conspiracytheories can be difficult, and often we rely upon what the experts tell us when it comes to assessing whether particular conspiracytheories ought to be believed. However, whereas there are recognised experts in the sciences, I argue that only are is no such associated expertise when it comes to the things we call `conspiracytheories,' but that the conspiracy theorist has good reason to be suspicious of the (...) role of expert endorsements when it comes to conspiracytheories and their rivals. The kind of expertise, then, we might associate with conspiracytheories is largely improvised—in that it lacks institutional features—and, I argue, ideally the product of a community of inquiry. (shrink)
Although recent trends in politics and media make it appear that conspiracytheories are on the rise, in fact they have always been present, probably because they are sustained by natural dispositions of the human brain. This is also the case with medical conspiracytheories. This article reviews some of the most notorious health-related conspiracytheories. It then approaches the reasons why people believe these theories, using concepts from cognitive science. On the basis (...) of that knowledge, the article makes normative proposals for public health officials and health workers as a whole, to deal with conspiracytheories, in order to preserve some of the fundamental principles of medical ethics. (shrink)
The paper is a contribution to current debates about conspiracytheories within philosophy and cultural studies. Wittgenstein’s understanding of language is invoked to analyse the epistemological effects of designating particular questions and explanations as a ‘conspiracy theory’. It is demonstrated how such a designation relegates these questions and explanations beyond the realm of meaningful discourse. In addition, Agamben’s concept of sovereignty is applied to explore the political effects of using the concept of conspiracy theory. The exceptional (...) epistemological status assigned to alleged conspiracytheories within our prevalent paradigms of knowledge and truth is compared to the exceptional legal status assigned to individuals accused of terrorism under the War on Terror. The paper concludes by discussing the relation between conspiracy theory and ‘the paranoid style’ in contemporary politics. (shrink)
Conspiracytheories have largely been framed by the academy as a stigmatised form of knowledge. Yet recent scholarship has included calls to take conspiracytheories more seriously as an area of study with a desire to judge them on their own merits rather than an a priori dismissal of them as a class of explanation. This paper argues that the debates within the philosophy of religion, long overlooked by scholars of conspiracytheories, can help (...) sow the seeds for re-examining our understanding of conspiracytheories in a more balanced and nuanced way. The nature of religious belief is elemental to understanding the epistemological foundations of the conspiracy theorising worldview amidst what we may call ‘conspiratorial ambiguity’. Specifically, R.M. Hare's concept of bliks, which are unfalsifiable but meaningful worldviews, offers a way forward to reframe our approach towards the theory of conspiracytheories. (shrink)
Conspiracy theorists believe that powerful agents are conspiring to achieve their nefarious aims and also to orchestrate a cover-up. People who suffer from impostor syndrome believe that they are not talented enough for the professional positions they find themselves in, and that they risk being revealed as inadequate. These are quite different outlooks on reality, and there is no reason to think that they are mutually reinforcing. Nevertheless, there are intriguing parallels between the patterns of trust and distrust which (...) underpin both conspiracy theorising and impostor thinking. In both cases subjects distrust standard sources of information, instead regarding themselves as especially insightful into the underlying facts of the matter. In both cases, seemingly-anomalous data takes on special significance. And in both cases, the content of belief dictates the epistemic behaviour of the believer. This paper explores these parallels, to suggest new avenues of research into both conspiracy theorising and impostor syndrome, including questions about whether impostor syndrome inevitably involves a personal failure of rationality, and issues about how, if at all, it is possible to convince others to abandon either conspiracytheories or impostor attitudes. (shrink)
An analysis of the recent efforts to define what counts as a "conspiracy theory", in which I argue that the philosophical and non-pejorative definition best captures the phenomenon researchers of conspiracy theory wish to interrogate.
A response to a declaration in 'Le Monde', 'Luttons efficacement contre les théories du complot' by Gérald Bronner, Véronique Campion-Vincent, Sylvain Delouvée, Sebastian Dieguez, Karen Douglas, Nicolas Gauvrit, Anthony Lantian, and Pascal Wagner-Egger, published on June the 6th, 2016.