Conspiracy Theories and Epistemic Fluency: understanding the challenge

Tim Hayward

Conspiracy Theories have become an object of considerable academic research lately. Yet they present a particular conundrum for scholars. At present, there is a significant rift within the field of studies relating to conspiracy theories. Much of the most prominent and highly funded work is being done by social scientists, especially social psychologists, who aim to diagnose the cognitive error and psychological predispositions involved in creating and believing conspiracist ideas. On the other hand, a smaller band of scholars based in philosophy – a discipline especially dedicated to epistemological questions – take a more dispassionate view of theories of conspiracy. Done right, these could represent an intellectually respectable and potentially enlightening activity in a world where conspiracies happen and where the public has an interest in understanding what is happening.

What both sides of that scholarly divide would agree is that knowledge needs to have a credible basis, and…

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