Against Irrationalism in the Theory of Propaganda

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (2):303-317 (2023)
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Abstract

According to many accounts, propaganda is a variety of politically significant signal with a distinctive connection to irrationality. This irrationality may be theoretical, or practical; it may be supposed that propaganda characteristically elicits this irrationality anew, or else that it exploits its prior existence. The view that encompasses such accounts we will call irrationalism. This essay presents two classes of propaganda that do not bear the sort of connection to irrationality posited by the irrationalist: hard propaganda and propaganda by the deed. Faced with these counterexamples, some irrationalists will offer their account of propaganda as a refinement of the folk concept rather than as an attempt to capture all of its applications. The author argues that any refinement of the concept of propaganda must allow the concept to remain essentially political, and that the irrationalist refinement fails to meet this condition.

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Megan Hyska
Northwestern University

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