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The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory: Bringing the Epistemology of a Freighted Term into the Social Sciences

In Joseph Uscinski (ed.), Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 94-108 (2018)

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  1. 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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  • What is a Conspiracy Theory and Why Does it Matter?Joseph E. Uscinski & Adam M. Enders - forthcoming - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society.
    Growing concern has been expressed that we have entered a “post-truth” era in which each of us willfully believes whatever we choose, aided and abetted by alternative and social media that spin alternative realities for boutique consumption. A prime example of the belief in alternative realities is said to be acceptance of “conspiracy theories”—a term that is often used as a pejorative to indict claims of conspiracy that are so obviously absurd that only the unhinged could believe them. The epistemological (...)
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  • Debunking conspiracy theories.M. R. X. Dentith - 2021 - Synthese 198 (10):9897-9911.
    In this paper I interrogate the notion of `debunking conspiracy theories’, 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 conspiracy theories’ 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 conspiracy (...)
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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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