What’s the haps?


Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik

I’ve got a new paper draft up on my website: “Shit Happens“. Comments welcome.

In this paper I embrace what Brian Keeley calls in “Of Conspiracy Theories” the absurdist horn of the dilemma for philosophers who criticize such theories. I thus defend the view that there is indeed something deeply epistemically wrong with conspiracy theorizing. My complaint is that conspiracy theories apply intentional explanations to situations that give rise to special problems concerning the elimination of competing intentional explanations.

3 Responses to “What’s the haps?”

  1. So … just to be clear: the key trouble with conspiracy theories is that they are in principle unverifiable explanations of specific events. The explanations they offer are troubling in their ad-hoc-ish-ness; and we can’t very well ask one of the conspirators to verify the conspiracy for us, since they will (by definition and of necessity) *lie* to us. So any number of competing conspiracy theories can claim exactly the same degree of credibility … in some respect, anyway.

    And because of ‘holism’ and ‘entanglement’, the concept of a conspiracy itself is a little … incredible, I suppose. So rather than lend any credence to conspiracy theories in general, you’d prefer to say that ‘’some people just do things” — that shit happens.

    Yes? No? Maybe?

  2. Oh, and: Am I engaged in “conspiracy theory” when I wonder about the motivations of President Bush and his advisors in drawing the US into war in Iraq? The story told initially, about WMDs, didn’t pan out, and it appears now that they were lying quite purposefully. Pick your favorite current explanation — there are more than a few out there — and they seem to have all five of your ingredients for a conspiracy theory, plus the “‘official’ explanation” criterion suggested by Coady.


  3. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi Johann,

    Thanks for the comments. They are quite helpful. Regarding your first comment, I’d say that you summarized my position quite nicely.

    Regarding your second question, I’d say, “perhaps” or “probably”. If you put forward a hypothesis in the current situation about Bush et al’s motives etc, then, yes, it will be one of several competing hypotheses that we are in no position to choose between. However, since Bush et al are still alive, there’s still a chance for a trial and this changes things considerably. In particular, insofar as various people can be compelled not to perjure themselves, that gets around the fifth element of the definition of conspiracy theories. In the context of an ongoing trial, you are no longer merely spinning hypotheses about a group of people whose own testimony is utterly suspicious.