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Conspiracy Theories and Evidential Self-Insulation

In Sven Bernecker, Amy K. Flowerree & Thomas Grundmann (eds.), The Epistemology of Fake News. Oxford University Press. pp. 82-105 (2021)

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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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  • Deep Disagreement (Part 1): Theories of Deep Disagreement.Chris Ranalli & Thirza Lagewaard - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (12):e12886.
    Some disagreements concern our most fundamental beliefs, principles, values, or worldviews, such as those about the existence of God, society and politics, or the trustworthiness of science. These are ‘deep disagreements’. But what exactly are deep disagreements? This paper critically overviews theories of deep disagreement. It does three things. First, it explains the differences between deep and other kinds of disagreement, including peer, persistent, and widespread disagreement. Second, it critically overviews two mainstream theories of deep disagreement, the Wittgensteinian account and (...)
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  • Bayesian belief protection: A study of belief in conspiracy theories.Nina Poth & Krzysztof Dolega - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology.
    Several philosophers and psychologists have characterized belief in conspiracy theories as a product of irrational reasoning. Proponents of conspiracy theories apparently resist revising their beliefs given disconfirming evidence and tend to believe in more than one conspiracy, even when the relevant beliefs are mutually inconsistent. In this paper, we bring leading views on conspiracy theoretic beliefs closer together by exploring their rationality under a probabilistic framework. We question the claim that the irrationality of conspiracy theoretic beliefs stems from an inadequate (...)
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  • What is a Conspiracy Theory?M. Giulia Napolitano & Kevin Reuter - 2021 - Erkenntnis:1-28.
    In much of the current academic and public discussion, conspiracy theories are portrayed as a negative phenomenon, linked to misinformation, mistrust in experts and institutions, and political propaganda. Rather surprisingly, however, philosophers working on this topic have been reluctant to incorporate a negatively evaluative aspect when either analyzing or engineering the concept conspiracy theory. In this paper, we present empirical data on the nature of the concept conspiracy theory from five studies designed to test the existence, prevalence and exact form (...)
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  • Cults, Conspiracies, and Fantasies of Knowledge.Daniel Munro - forthcoming - Episteme:1-22.
    There’s a certain pleasure in fantasizing about possessing knowledge, especially possessing secret knowledge to which outsiders don’t have access. Such fantasies are typically a source of innocent entertainment. However, under the right conditions, fantasies of knowledge can become epistemically dangerous, because they can generate illusions of genuine knowledge. I argue that this phenomenon helps to explain why some people join and eventually adopt the beliefs of epistemic communities who endorse seemingly bizarre, outlandish claims, such as extreme cults and online conspiracy (...)
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  • Scientific Misinformation and Fake News: A Blurred Boundary.Anna Elisabetta Galeotti & Cristina Meini - 2022 - Social Epistemology 36 (6):703-718.
    If political fake news is a serious concern for democratic politics, no less worrisome is scientific news with patently distorted content. Prima facie, scientific misinformation partially escapes the definition of fake news provided by empirical and philosophical analysis, mainly patterned after political disinformation. Most notably, we aim to show that people are often unaware not only of disseminating, but also of producing false or misleading information. However, by leveraging the philosophical and psychological literature, we advance some reasons for keeping scientific (...)
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  • Conspiracy Theories Are Not Beliefs.Julia Duetz - 2022 - Erkenntnis:1-15.
    Napolitano (2021) argues that the Minimalist Account of conspiracy theories—i.e., which defines conspiracy theories as explanations, or theories, about conspiracies—should be rejected. Instead, she proposes to define conspiracy theories 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 (...)
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  • Suspicious conspiracy theories.M. R. X. Dentith - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-14.
    Conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists have been accused of a great many sins, but are the conspiracy theories conspiracy 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 conspiracy theories which license suspicion of such theories. I will also argue that these features only license a (...)
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  • Doing your own research and other impossible acts of epistemic superheroism.Andrew Buzzell & Regina Rini - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an “infodemic” of misinformation and conspiracy theory. This article points to three explanatory factors: the challenge of forming accurate beliefs when overwhelmed with information, an implausibly individualistic conception of epistemic virtue, and an adversarial information environment that suborns epistemic dependence. Normally we cope with the problems of informational excess by relying on other people, including sociotechnical systems that mediate testimony and evidence. But when we attempt to engage in epistemic “superheroics” - withholding trust (...)
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