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Publication . Article . 2009

On Political Conspiracy Theories*

Juha Räikkä;
Open Access  
Published: 01 Jun 2009
Publisher: Zenodo
Abstract
IT is often pointed out that political conspiracy theories are of limited falsifiability. Government officials’ public statements and testimonies in a court of law that contradict a conspiracy theory can be interpreted as signs that support the theory. Almost all potentially falsifying evidence can be construed to be supporting or neutral. Official reports that contradict conspiracy theories are exactly what conspiracy theorists expect governments to produce. Although some people tend to reject conspiracy theories because of this feature, limited falsifiability is not really a problem. As many authors have argued, it is not ad hoc reasoning to suppose that misleading evidence will be thrown your way when one believes that there is somebody out there actively feeding that evidence to investigators and seeking to steer the investigation away from the truth of the matter. However, limited falsifiability may lead to problems, even if it is not a problem per se. At least, this is the claim that has recently been defended. While most conspiracy theories may not warrant outright dismissal, they do “warrant a degree of skepticism.” Although conspiracies sometimes occur, “it is usually not rational to believe in them.” In what follows, I will briefly analyze the view that most political conspiracy theories should be rejected on the grounds that they embody “an almost nihilistic degree of skepticism about the behavior and motivations of other people and the social institutions they constitute.” This view has been widely criticized, but I will try to show that the objections presented so far are not wholly convincing. I will then formulate my own argument against that position, and argue that, in a sense, political conspiracy theories may not be much weaker explanations than standard non-conspirational
Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Sociology Falsifiability Skepticism media_common.quotation_subject media_common Social institution Argument Government Warrant Positive economics Dismissal Politics

Subjects

Philosophy, Sociology and Political Science

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