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The Truth Is (Still) out There. On the Epistemology and Cultural Dynamics of Conspiracy Beliefs

Boudry, Maarten (2020) The Truth Is (Still) out There. On the Epistemology and Cultural Dynamics of Conspiracy Beliefs. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In the space of all possible beliefs, conspiracy theories stand out with a special and possibly unique feature: they are the only beliefs that predict an absence of evidence in their favor, and even the discovery of counterevidence. In the traditional, narrow sense of the term, a ‘conspiracy theory’ refers to an alternative explanation of a historical event in terms of a small group of actors working together to achieve some nefarious goal. In a broader sense, however, any theory that involves a form of invisible intentional agency can adopt the contours of a conspiracy theory. In this paper, I adopt a broader and more abstract definition of conspiracy theories, based on a conceptual core that unifies all such theories. By drawing comparisons between conspiracy theories in a range of different domains (psychology, religion, pseudoscience), we gain more insight into their central epistemological defects, as well as their cultural dynamics. Some belief systems are inherently conspiratorial, in that they posit some form of intelligent agency that deliberately wants to escape detection, while others merely resort to conspiratorial reasoning when threatened with counterevidence. This paper builds on earlier research into the cultural evolution of belief systems.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Boudry, Maartenmaartenboudry@gmail.com
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Epistemology
Specific Sciences > Cultural Evolution
Depositing User: Maarten Maarten Boudry
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2020 03:26
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2020 03:26
Item ID: 17699
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Epistemology
Specific Sciences > Cultural Evolution
Date: July 2020
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17699

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