Are Conspiracy Theorists Epistemically Vicious?

In Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Kimberley Brownlee & David Coady (eds.), A Companion to Applied Philosophy. Malden, MA: Wiley. pp. 120–132 (2016)
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Are conspiracy theorists epistemically vicious? That is the conventional wisdom. It has distinguished supporters, including Quassim Cassam, Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule. For me, a trait is an epistemic virtue if leads to the discovery of salient truths and the avoidance of pernicious falsehoods, and an epistemic vice the contrary. As such epistemic virtues and vices are role‐relative, context‐relative and end‐relative. I argue that that it is not necessarily or even usually vicious to be a conspiracy theorist, even if we restrict the conspiracies in question to conspiracies on the part of Western government agencies, the reason being that many such theories are now known to be true. Finally I contend that the policy suggested by some polemicists of systematic skepticism towards conspiracy theories would be intellectually suicidal and hence vicious.



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Charles R. Pigden
University of Otago

Citations of this work

Do your own research!Neil Levy - 2022 - Synthese 200 (5):1-19.
Who is a Conspiracy Theorist?Melina Tsapos - 2023 - Social Epistemology 38 (4):454-463.
Expertise and Conspiracy Theories.M. R. X. Dentith - 2018 - Social Epistemology 32 (3):196-208.

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