Debunking conspiracy theories

Synthese 198 (10):9897-9911 (2020)
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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 theories. Looking at recent research work in epistemology on conspiracy theory, I argue that the best way to avoid talk of `debunking’ conspiracy theories is by working with a non-pejorative definition of `conspiracy theory’, and forming communities of inquiry which allow us to investigate the warrant of such theories without the prejudice associated with working with a pejorative definition.

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M R. X. Dentith
Beijing Normal University


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