Matthew Denith: Investigating Conspiracy Theories

Lecture: “Investigating Conspiracy Theories: The case for treating conspiracy theories seriously, even the (apparently) ridiculous ones”

The term ‘conspiracy theory’ gets a bad rap in public discourse. Recent academic work – particularly in History, Philosophy and Sociology – has convincingly argued that conspiracy theories do not deserve their bad reputation; conspiracies don’t just happen but many pejoratively-labelled ‘conspiracy theories’ have turned out to be warranted. But what would it be like to treat such theories seriously enough to engage in a systemic investigation of them? How do we sort good theories from bad? What counts as evidence for or against a conspiracy? Just who would investigate such theories? Drawing together a swath of recent academic work on these things we call ‘conspiracy theories’ I argue that we ought to treat conspiracy theories seriously and investigate them, even if that means sometimes we have to ponder whether alien shape-shifting reptiles run our governments.

Speaker: Matthew Dentith is  author of Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories, Co-host and producer of the Podcaster’s Guide to the Conspiracy Podcast. Dentith has published numerous papers in such venues as Social Epistemology, Episteme, Skeptic,and The Fortean Times.