Iâ€™ve been interested in â€˜Beliefâ€™ now for several years. As a former dualist theist turned quasi-deist materialist Iâ€™m both curious as to how people form beliefs and hold on to them. Iâ€™ve moved from believer to sympathetic believer to skeptic and Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that people are irrational no matter which side of the fence they actually sit. Conspiracy Theories (probably likely to be known as CTs hereafter on this blog) are a good example of exactly this kind of â€˜thing.â€™ Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, right wing or left, Penn Jillette or Lyndon LaRouche you have likely bought into at least one conspiracy theory. If you havenâ€™t… Well, you just arenâ€™t paying attention. Fact: conspiracies have occurred, are occurring and will occur again in the future.The question is whether it is rational to believe in them.Ontology and Epistemology is my game; ontology tells you exists, which events are occuring versus those that arenâ€™t. Epistemology (well, theories within epistemology) explain which of these ontological facts you can be said to have warrant, or rational belief, in. Thought experiment: assume that there is a God (ontological fact in this experiment) but that this God has given us no evidence of its existence. God exists but there is no reason to believe in it. Second thought experiment (an historical one): Observing the heavens you realise that the Sun is stationary and it is the Earth that orbits it. Prior the invention of the telescope you would be hard pressed to show that this theory is better than its rival, geocentric model. Belief is contextual; without a telescope to show that the orbits of the inner planets and outer planets support the idea that the Earth is between them and orbitting around the Sun the rival theory is equally as rational. Wrong but rational.Rationality, as a philosopher will tell you, isnâ€™t all that itâ€™s cracked up to be.Iâ€™m writing a PhD dissertation on Conspiracy Theories. Iâ€™m curious as to whether we should, or should not, believe in a) the existence of Conspiracy Theories in general and b) the existence of specfic Conspiracy Theories. My research is primarily on the philosophical material, i.e. the epistemology, but you canâ€™t help but read about and into the pyschological and sociological aspects of Conspiracy Theories. As I canâ€™t really deal with that material in my dissertation Iâ€™m going to blog it instead. Think of â€˜All Embracing but Underwhelmingâ€™ as a series of research notes that, I hope, will be written up in a nice, easy to understand manner.So, without further ado, let the blogging commense.
About Matthew Dentith
Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.All posts by Matthew