Essay on Of Conspiracy Theories by Brian Keeley

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Brian Keeley’s short essay, “Of Conspiracy Theories” discusses conspiracy theories and their value in an epistemological context. Keeley defines a conspiracy theory as “a proposed explanation of some historical event (or events) in terms of the significant causal agency of a relatively small group of persons-the conspirators-acting in secret (Keeley 1999, pg. 116).” Keeley seeks to answer the question of why conspiracy theories are unwarranted. His interest in the warrant of conspiracy theories focuses on ¬the unfalsifiability of conspiracy theories and how conspiracy theories are founded upon an extraordinarily large amount of skepticism. In section III, Keely discusses what a conspiracy theory is, and contends that there is no grounds for…show more content…
He explains why UCTs are as popular as they are in modern society, and why people should nevertheless disregard and approach them with caution. What Keeley refers to as “virtues” are the reason for the popularity of UCTs. He gives the virtue of explanatory reach as the first and main reason for UCTs popularity, which is the account of all knowledge including errant data. This is in stark contrast to the received theory, which is imperfect by nature. This quality of UCTs is particularly attractive because it appeals to human rationality by allowing for no loopholes. Keely argues that errant data alone is not significant enough, and that a theory should never fit all of the data. This leads into one of the main points, concerning falsifiability and skepticism. Unfalsifiability is acceptable when the item or person under investigation is not actively trying to escape from the investigator. Keeley contends that the problem is not the innate unfalsifiability, but rather the increasing amount of skepticism required. Keely seeks a hole in the concept of conspiracy theories that accounts for a person’s innate sense that belief in a particular conspiracy theory is not justified. In the case of the natural sciences, falsifiability is acceptable because of the rigorous protocols in place, and therefore, we are warranted in believing scientific claims. In section V, Keeley discusses the implication of the popularity of UCTs discussed in

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