Genealogical Undermining for Conspiracy Theories

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-23 (2023)
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Abstract

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 by which these industries systematically create and disseminate specific types of conspiracy theories, I examine the implications of my proposal concerning the particularism/generalism debate and I consider the possibility of what I call local generalism. Finally, I tackle three objections. It could be objected that a problematic genealogy for T merely creates what Dentith (2022) calls ‘type-1’ (or ‘weak’) suspicion for T. I also consider a challenge according to which the genealogical method is meta-undermined, as well as an objection from epistemic laundering.

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