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<ul><li><p>Conspiracy Theories: Philosophy and Critical </p><p>ThinkingSession One - The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories</p></li><li><p>Example 1</p><p> You would think that the American people would have learned a little skepticism by now. They've had 40 years of CIA wrongdoing, including ridiculously implausible plots like trying to assassinate Fidel Castro with a cigar and the Kennedy Assassinations. They've seen unlikely government conspiracies proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, like Watergate and MK-ULTRA. For God's sake, the US government has even confessed to feeding radioactive mush to retarded children, just to see what would happen. The real question isn't Why would you believe the U.S. government was behind September 11? Rather, the question is Why wouldn't you?</p></li><li><p>Example 2</p><p> The United States of America is well aware of the frequent alien contact this world has had since the early 1950s.The information is freely available but the government in Washington has had much success in controlling its transmission either by way of force (via the insidious Men in Black) or by making sure that credible witnesses are portrayed in the popular press as cranks and idiots.</p></li><li><p>Example 3</p><p> The anti-nuclear stance taken by the incoming Labour Government of New Zealand in 1984 was the result of an elaborate plot by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to destabilise the ANZUS alliance. The KGB felt that it had such control over the SUP that they could be considered agents for Mother Russia. Dr. Michael Bassett claimed that David Langes leadership of the Labour Party was fraught with factionalised tensions and that the anti-nuclear stance was forced upon him by his more Socialist colleagues. These more Socialist colleages were working on behalf of the SUP, suggesting a Soviet-led conspiracy.</p></li><li><p>No one likes to be called a conspiracy </p><p>theorist</p><p>Im not a conspiracy theorist, but...</p></li><li><p>Session Outline</p><p>1. Preamble Psychology, History, Sociology and Philosophy </p><p>2. What is a conspiracy theory? </p><p>3. What is a conspiracy? </p><p>4. What or Who is a Conspiracy Theorist? </p><p>5. The plausibility and coherence of conspiracy theories </p><p>6. Conspiracy theories vs. official theories </p><p>7. The structure of the following sessions</p></li><li><p>Contact Details</p><p> Matthew Dentith</p><p> m.dentith@episto.org</p><p> @HORansome</p><p> http://www.episto.org</p><p>mailto:m.dentith@episto.orghttp://www.episto.org</p></li><li><p>1. Preamble Psychology</p><p> (Crude) Overview of the Psychological Position on conspiracy theories A deeply held belief in the truth of some conspiracy theory is symptomatic of paranoia. </p><p> Quick question: Can there be justified paranoia?</p></li><li><p>1. Preamble Sociology</p><p> (Crude) Overview of the Sociological Position on conspiracy theories - Conspiracies occur but conspiracy theories tend to be theories which express worries about the usual suspects or suspected power imbalances in our societies rather than being good explanatory theories about why certain events occur.</p></li><li><p>1. Preamble History</p><p> (Crude) Overview of the Historical Position on conspiracy theories - Conspiracies have occurred but conspiracy theories are rarely good explanations of conspiratorial activity because they tend to either work with a simplistic notion of the connection between what agents intend and what they get or they are theories about conspiracies where none exist.</p></li><li><p>1. Preamble Philosophy</p><p> (Crude) Overview of the Philosophical Position on Conspiracy Theories Whilst we know that conspiracies have occurred in history, we have a good prima facie case to treat belief in contemporary conspiracy theories as being unwarranted.</p></li><li><p>2. What is a conspiracy theory?</p><p> A conspiracy theory is simply: </p><p> any explanation of an event which cites a conspiracy as the salient cause.</p></li><li><p>2. What is a conspiracy theory?</p><p> Quick Example </p><p> Some have argued that our current economic policy is being driven by a cabal of environmentalists who, through their deliberate distortion of good science, have given the impression that our ecosystem is on the verge of catastrophic collapse. This is a conspiracy being headed by the Green Movement where right thinking climate scientists are being rebuked for their work and being denied funding to continue it, thus ensuring that the only story being put forward is that which supports the left-leaning, Marxist ideology of such groups as Greenpeace and their ilk.</p></li><li><p>3. What is a conspiracy?</p><p> The most minimal conception of what counts as a conspiracy will satisfy the following three conditions: </p><p>1. The Conspirators Condition There exists (or existed) some set of agents with a plan, </p><p>2. The Secrecy Condition Steps have been taken by the agents to minimise public awareness of what they are up to and </p><p>3. The Goal Condition Some end is or was desired by the agents.</p></li><li><p>3. What is a conspiracy?</p><p> Must conspiracies be necessarily morally wrong? </p><p> Is a surprise party an example of a conspiracy? </p><p> Can plotters conspire to produce good outcomes? </p><p> Is it always morally wrong to lie? </p><p> Must conspiracies be necessarily morally suspicious?</p></li><li><p>3. What is a conspiracy?</p><p> Side-stepping the issue: The kind of conspiracies we normally find interesting (in relation to discussions of conspiracy theories) are political conspiracies.</p></li><li><p>4. What or Who is a Conspiracy Theorist?</p><p> A conspiracy theorist is someone who believes or advocates some conspiracy theory. </p><p> If you think conspiracy theories are prima facie irrational, then it will be irrational to be a conspiracy theorist. </p><p> This is what we might call Conspiracy Theory Skepticism or Conspiracism.</p></li><li><p>4. What or Who is a Conspiracy Theorist?</p><p> If you think that conspiracy theories can be warranted, ala rational to believe given the evidence, then it might be rational to be a conspiracy theorist. </p><p> Might be? Well, we might live in a world where: </p><p> conspiracies never occur or </p><p> we might live in a world where conspiracies do occur but they never achieve anything of note</p></li><li><p>5. The plausibility and coherence of conspiracy theories</p><p> A lot of our beliefs about the world come from what we have heard from others, and often these beliefs are justified, so why might we sometimes think conspiracy theories are implausible?</p></li><li><p>6. Conspiracy theories vs. official theories</p><p> Many conspiracy theories have rivals in the form of official theories. </p><p> Official theories are usually considered to be better explanations because they are more plausible. </p><p> One reason why official theories are considered more plausible is that they are (often) based upon Epistemically Authoritative Sources, which are sources of justified beliefs.</p></li><li><p>6. Conspiracy theories vs. official theories</p><p> We need to be aware when or whether we are appealing to such sources. </p><p> Because we are dealing with the difference between mere beliefs and justified beliefs, we are concerned with whether our beliefs are rational given the available evidence. </p><p> It is fairly common in certain conspiracy theories for non-experts to be considered epistemically authoritative. </p><p> Sometimes even we mistake a Epistemically Authoritative Source in one field to be similarly authoritative in some unrelated field.</p></li><li><p>7. The structure of the following sessions</p><p> Next week: Local Conspiracy Theories: </p><p> The Celtic New Zealand thesis &amp; the North Head Tunnels Conspiracy Theory </p><p> In coming weeks: </p><p> Literary Conspiracy Theories </p><p> Historical Conspiracies </p><p> The Public Trust </p><p> The Final Lecture/Summation</p></li></ul>

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