The contributors to this volume argue that whilst there is a commonplace superstition conspiracy theories are examples of bad beliefs (and that the kind of people who believe conspiracy theories are typically irrational), many conspiracy theories are rational to believe: the members of the Dewey Commission were right to say that the Moscow Trials of the 1930s were a sham; Woodward and Bernstein were correct to think that Nixon was complicit in the conspiracy to deny any wrongdoing in the Watergate Hotel break in; and if we either accept the terrorist events of 9/11 were committed by Al-Qaeda, or that the Bush Administration was responsible, then it seems we are endorsing some theory about a conspiracy to commit an act of terror on American soil. As such, there is no reason to reject conspiracy theories sui generis. This volume challenges the prima facie that conspiracy theories are irrational beliefs, arguing that we should treat conspiracy theories and the phenomena of conspiracy theories seriously. It presents fresh perspectives from the wider philosophical, sociological and psychological community on what is becoming an issue of increasing relevance in our time.
Part I The Particularist Turn in the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories / Introduction M R. X. Dentith / 1. When inferring to a conspiracy theory is the best explanation M R. X. Dentith / 2. Suspicion and Reluctance: Beyond Particularism Patrick Stokes / 3. Reply by Lee Basham / 4. Conclusion: What particularism about conspiracy theories entails M R. X. Dentith / Part II: Diagnosing Conspiracy Theory Theorists / 5. Introduction M R. X. Dentith / 6. Seeking to Cure Everybody Lee Basham and M R. X. Dentith / 7. Conceptual Confusions in Criticisms of Conspiracy Theorising Martin Orr and M R. X. Dentith / 8. Conspiracy Theorists, Social Scientists and the Abuse of Reason Kurtis Hagen / 9. To measure or not to measure? Psychometrics and conspriracy theories Marius Raab / 10. Pathologizing Open Societies Lee Basham / 11. By Virginia Husting / 12. Conspiracy-baiting and anti-rumour campaigns as propaganda David Coady / 13. On some moral costs of conspiracy theory Patrick Stokes / 14. On the moral costs of conspiracy ‘skepticism’ Charles Pigden / 15. What’s right about conspiracy theorising and conspiracy theorists M R. X. Dentith
In our current age of conspiracy, it’s vitally important for everyone – academics, journalists, and engaged citizens – to study and try to understand conspiracy discourse. This provocative book gives us the tools we need to take conspiracy theory seriously.
This volume represents an important contribution to the philosophical debate on conspiracy theories. Conspiracies are common, but they are usually revealed by investigative journalists, authorities and individual leakers, not by conspiracy theorists. However, this does not show that conspiracy theories should be dismissed just because they have been labeled as “conspiracy theories”. Rather, we must treat every conspiracy theory according to the evidence. One of the bravest books known to me on the topic.
Matthew Dentith is one of the most important social epistemologists studying conspiracy theories. In this fascinating volume, he has assembled many of the top minds studying conspiracy theories to tackle the most important emerging questions regarding conspiracy theories and their study – the answers to which will both satisfy and agitate. This volume is an essential collection for anyone seeking to truly understand conspiracy theories and the people who believe them.
Most discussions of conspiracy theory generate far more heat than light. It is a profound relief, then, to see this work published. M R. X. Dentith has here assembled a formidable cast of many of the major figures in philosophical debates about conspiracy theory. For those working in the area – as well as many outside it – this volume is essential reading.
Focussing on the controversy generated by a 2016 Le Monde opinion piece on conspiracy theorising, as well as ongoing debate over the distinction between particularism and generalism about conspiracy theories, this collection, edited by M.R.X. Dentith, brings together the latest and best academic writing about conspiracy theorising. Required reading for anyone interested in the epistemology and ethics of conspiracy theories.
Matthew R. X. Dentith is the author of The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories (2014). He is currently a Fellow in the Institute for Research in the Humanities (ICUB) at the University of Burcharest, where he is working on a research project called “The Ethics of Investigation: When are we obliged to take conspiracy theories seriously?”