Conspiracy theories on the basis of the evidence

Synthese 196 (6):2243-2261 (2019)
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Conspiracy theories are often portrayed as unwarranted beliefs, typically supported by suspicious kinds of evidence. Yet contemporary work in Philosophy argues provisional belief in conspiracy theories is—at the very—least understandable (because conspiracies occur) and if we take an evidential approach—judging individual conspiracy theories 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 conspiracy theories, showing that the evidential problems typically associated with conspiracy theories 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 conspiracy theories generally, there is no prima facie case for a scepticism of conspiracy theories based purely on their use of evidence.

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M R. X. Dentith
Beijing Normal University


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