Courses courses courses

A reminder to all those who might be interested that the Conspiracy Theories course is still open for your enrolment. So sign up, one and all, for a fun-filled six weeks of talking about Conspiracy Theories philosophically, epistemologically and, most importantly, enjoyably.

For those of you noticing, I wasn’t on the radio this last Sunday. I forgot to stop the blog advertising the idea that I was; we ‘lost’ a flatmate on the weekend and I was there to help out in whichever way I could, which turned out to be avoiding the train of boxes that paraded past my room. Still, the thought was there. Radio resumes Sunday after next, and I plan to be talking about whether the past incidence of historical conspiracies tells us anything about the likelihood of contemporary conspiracies happening now.

But anyway, enrol enrol enrol. It’ll be good for you and even better for me.


1. In no way whatsoever

Found on a website…

ARI has shipped 1.1 million books as part of the “Free Books for Teachers” program. So if the books have a lifespan of four to five years, then four to five million students are reading Ayn Rand’s novels in their English classes. By the end of the decade, over seven million kids will have read Ayn Rand.

Aside from the fact that I think it’s scary someone wants kids to read Rand (I think her greatest accomplishment is that she wrote thick books) this is also a great example of what we philosophers like to call a ‘fallacy.’

Aside from working on the thesis, getting well and moving offices (and who says a man can’t multitask) I am slowly building up a store of new examples for PHIL105, the class I am ‘triumphantly’ returning to in the summer semester.

So why is this a good example, you might ask? And has it anything to do with Conspiracy Theories? The answer to the latter is no, unfortunately (unless you think the actions of the ARI are malacious, covert and out to achieve some ignoble end). In regards to the former question, well…

The arguer assumes that the unsolicited books are going to be put to use in the classroom. This is, of course, not necessarily the case. I’m no expert on North American schools, but I suspect they have a curriculum, assigned texts and, of course, limited teaching time. Most teachers tend to select books based upon their knowledge of the work, how useful they think it has been in the past, et cetera. A new, unsolicited text, unless highly recommended, probably isn’t going to creep into the reading list. Sure, some whackjob teacher might end up using it, but I suspect a lot of them will end up in the bookstall at the school fair.

What kind of fallacy is this an example of? It’s an example of insufficient evidence; the arguer assumes that, by the end of the decade, over seven million kids will have read Ayn Rand. Structure-wise, it looks a little like this:

P1. ‘The Fountainhead’ is available as an assignable reading in sixty-two percent of New Zealand secondary schools.
Therefore, probably,
C1. It has been found useful in many New Zealand secondary schools.
Therefore (probably),
C2. ‘The Fountainhead’ might be a useful assigned reading for secondary-aged children.

Yes it might, but might does not imply is (somewhere, out there, a philosopher giggles).

This kind of fallacy is common; the fact that five million copies of a certain book have been sent out to schools throughout a country is just an empty claim if there is no further evidence or theory to base an argument about. You might as well argue that as Bibles are found throughout a majority of houses in New Zealand then most New Zealanders are Christian. The former does not imply the latter without further justification.

Enough of that. Work to do. Back to the paucity of postings.

CCE (UoA) – Conspiracy Theories: Philosophy and Critical Thinking

A reminder…

Class Number: 77961

When: 6 sessions, Wednesday 23 July – 27 August, 10am – 12pm

Where: Room 218, Level 2, Building No. 810, 1 – 11 Short Street

Fee (GST incl): $117.00 (International Fee (GST incl): $195.80)

Class Limit: 18

Course Description: Some people think that Philosophy is all abstract thinking. However critical thinking is a set of philosophical tools that allow you to make informed and well-reasoned arguments towards particular viewpoints. In this course you will look at the application of philosophy to conspiracy theories, ranging from the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, to the Da Vinci Code itself and to the North Head tunnels conspiracy. Through the application of critical thinking skills to the content of these theories you will experience first-hand the practical application of philosophy to everyday life.

(More information available here)

The Dentith Files – Critical Thinking

Between 2008 and 2010, Matthew Dentith first joined 95bFM’s Simon Pound, then José Barbosa, on Sunday mornings to talk about conspiracy theories. Listen, as they say, again!

Well, it was slightly more than petty advertising. Next time I’m going to spread the love, so to speak, and talk about the International Journal of Inactivism’s Genealogy of Climate Conspiracy Theories. It’s fascinating material and I hope to do it a bit of justice.

This week Matthew explains how he goes about teaching critical thinking by using conspiracy theories and why it’s more important as a philosophy rather than psychology. If you’re into it Matthew’s course is starting very soon, check out the Center for Continuing Education for more details.