A Case Study in Critical Thinking: The North Head Conspiracy Theory

On Thursday I enter the wide world of corporate speaking gigs with a talk to a group of underwriters at Vero. Yay, verily, I am involved with professional development and yay, verily, I’m somewhat conflicted by the notion.I’m not a friend of Capitalism.I got the gig because one of my Continuing Education students works for Vero and thought my style would work; some challenging intellectual footwrok, a little light humour and a whole lot of love (well, no love; that would break certain ethical boundaries). I’m basing the talk on two other pieces I wrote; a critical thinking primer I gave to the librarians at the University of Auckland a few years back (when we were trying to dissuade the Library from trying to teach their own critical thinking skills programme; that’s a long story in itself) and a paper I presented at a conference a few years back, although the rewrites have almost made it into a new work.All of which is meant to explain the lack of real updates on this site; the testimony work is getting bigger and more involving in re the actual thesis and what started out as a mere paper will likely become a very important chapter in the final product. I think I may have a kind of solution to a tricky philosophical problem in re internal notions of justified belief and external notions of knowledge. A large part of my thesis will revolve around explicating the ‘Inference to Any Old Explanation’ fallacy, which is, I believe, the reason why we are so (rightfully) dismissive of claims of Conspiracy. People often make faulty inferences because they are inadequately informed or they trust unreliable sources, and testimony is a case where trusting an unreliable source can lead to having what appears to be a justified belief. The coherence of your existing beliefs affects what new beliefs you are likely to take on board and this is going to also make you more or less likely to trust particular testifiers. If you believe that the government is conspiring against you, then someone who agrees with your assessment and tells a story about how the government is conspiring is likely to be someone you are going to trust, moreso than me.

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.