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Conspiracy Theories and Evidential Self-Insulation

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

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  1. Conspiracy Theorist's World and Genealogy.Nader Shoaibi - forthcoming - Social Epistemology.
    Conspiracy theories pose a serious threat to our society these days. People often dismiss conspiracy theory believers as at best gullible, or more often unintelligent. However, there are cases in which individuals end up believing conspiracy theories out of no epistemic fault of their own. In this paper, I want to offer a diagnosis of the problem by focusing on the genealogy of the conspiracy theory beliefs. Drawing on a novel interpretation of Nietzsche’s use of genealogies, I argue that the (...)
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  • What is Interesting about Conspiracy Theories?Melina Tsapos - manuscript
    It is not clear that scholars, when they use the term ‘conspiracy theory’, are in fact interested in investigating the phenomenon of conspiracy theories and belief in them as such. I consider two perspectives found in the fast-growing literature on conspiracy theories: The Faux-pas View and The Neutral View. I argue that there is a difference in scholarly motivation, or at a very minimum a difference in the sustaining motivation for the research paradigms. What the motivations are is much too (...)
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  • Conspiracy theories are not theories: Time to rename conspiracy theories.Kevin Reuter & Lucien Baumgartner - forthcoming - In Manuel Gustavo Isaac, Steffen Koch & Kevin Scharp (eds.), New Perspectives on Conceptual Engineering. Springer.
    This paper presents the results of two corpus studies investigating the discourse surrounding conspiracy theories and genuine theories. The results of these studies show that conspiracy theories lack the epistemic and scientific standing characteristic of theories more generally. Instead, our findings indicate that conspiracy theories are spread in a manner that resembles the dissemination of rumors and falsehoods. Based on these empirical results, we argue that it is time for both re-engineering conspiracy theory and for relabeling "conspiracy theory". We propose (...)
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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 - 2023 - Philosophical Psychology 36 (5):906-930.
    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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  • Justified Evidence Resistance.Sven Bernecker - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-12.
    The paper proposes a novel account of justified evidence resistance. When S inquires as to whether p is the case, S resists available counterevidence e if S either fails to countenance e or is insensitive to e’s probative force. S is justified in resisting available counterevidence e if and only if e is irrelevant.
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  • Genealogical Undermining for Conspiracy Theories.Alexios Stamatiadis-Bréhier - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-23.
    In this paper I develop a genealogical approach for investigating and evaluating conspiracy theories. I argue that conspiracy theories with an epistemically problematic genealogy are (in virtue of that fact) epistemically undermined. I propose that a plausible type of candidate for such conspiracy theories involves what I call ‘second-order conspiracies’ (i.e. conspiracies that aim to create conspiracy theories). Then, I identify two examples involving such conspiracies: the antivaccination industry and the industry behind climate change denialism. After fleshing out the mechanisms (...)
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  • Misinformation, Content Moderation, and Epistemology: Protecting Knowledge.Keith Raymond Harris - 2024 - Routledge.
    This book argues that misinformation poses a multi-faceted threat to knowledge, while arguing that some forms of content moderation risk exacerbating these threats. It proposes alternative forms of content moderation that aim to address this complexity while enhancing human epistemic agency. The proliferation of fake news, false conspiracy theories, and other forms of misinformation on the internet and especially social media is widely recognized as a threat to individual knowledge and, consequently, to collective deliberation and democracy itself. This book argues (...)
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  • Conspiracy theories, epistemic self-identity, and epistemic territory.Daniel Munro - 2024 - Synthese 203 (4):1-28.
    This paper seeks to carve out a distinctive category of conspiracy theorist, and to explore the process of becoming a conspiracy theorist of this sort. Those on whom I focus claim their beliefs trace back to simply trusting their senses and experiences in a commonsensical way, citing what they take to be authoritative firsthand evidence or observations. Certain flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers, and UFO conspiracy theorists, for example, describe their beliefs and evidence this way. I first distinguish these conspiracy theorists by (...)
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Does the Phrase “Conspiracy Theory” Matter?M. R. X. Dentith, Ginna Husting & Martin Orr - 2023 - Society.
    Research on conspiracy theories has proliferated since 2016, in part due to the US election of President Trump, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasingly threatening environmental conditions. In the rush to publication given these concerning social consequences, researchers have increasingly treated as definitive a 2016 paper by Michael Wood (Political Psychology, 37(5), 695–705, 2016) that concludes that the phrase “conspiracy theory” has no negative effect upon people’s willingness to endorse a claim. We revisit Wood’s findings and its (re)uptake in the recent (...)
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  • Betting on Conspiracy: A Decision Theoretic Account of the Rationality of Conspiracy Theory Belief.Melina Tsapos - 2024 - Erkenntnis 89 (2):1-19.
    The question of the rationality of conspiratorial belief ¬divides philosophers into mainly two camps. The particularists believe that each conspiracy theory ought to be examined on its own merits. The generalist, by contrast, argues that there is something inherently suspect about conspiracy theories that makes belief in them irrational. Recent empirical findings indicate that conspiratorial thinking is commonplace among ordinary people, which has naturally shifted attention to the particularists. Yet, even the particularist must agree that not all conspiracy belief is (...)
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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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  • 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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  • Capturing the conspiracist’s imagination.Daniel Munro - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (12):3353-3381.
    Some incredibly far-fetched conspiracy theories circulate online these days. For most of us, clear evidence would be required before we’d believe these extraordinary theories. Yet, conspiracists often cite evidence that seems transparently very weak. This is puzzling, since conspiracists often aren’t irrational people who are incapable of rationally processing evidence. I argue that existing accounts of conspiracist belief formation don’t fully address this puzzle. Then, drawing on both philosophical and empirical considerations, I propose a new explanation that appeals to the (...)
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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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