SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The irrationality of conspiracy theories: Why the way we acquire evidence should affect our credence
(Epistemology, English)

In his paper "Epistemic Feedback Loops (Or: How Not to Get Evidence)" Nick Hughes argues that it is an omission of normative epistemology that the way how we acquire evidence is not sufficiently taken into account. As a consequence, common approaches of epistemic normativity classify beliefs that are based on delusive evidence as justified and rational even though, intuitively, we would describe (some of) these cases as irrational, e.g. cases of conspiracists. Based on this realisation, Hughes develops a theoretical framework called "dispositionalism" which enables us to understand why beliefs based on delusive evidence are irrational. Among other simplifications, Hughes focuses only on the coarse-grained attitudes _belief, disbelief and suspension of judgment and ignores the more fine-grained attitudes such as credence. This is unfortunate, because if the framework only works if we assume unrealistic oversimplified agents, its' explanatory power is weaker as it could otherwise have been.

Starting from this, in this talk, I want to present an adaption of dispositionalism that is able to handle fine-grained attitudes like credence. For the adaption I will take a closer look at the relationship between belief and credence by consulting basic principles of Bayesian epistemology. I will compare different options of adaptation and I will argue that an accuracy centric version is the most promising one. On completion I will apply the framework on belief generating cases with delusive evidence, including cases where a person's degree of belief is based on conspiracy theory-influenced evidence. We will see that the framework classifies those cases correctly. This will show that dispositionalism is indeed a very promising alternative to popular approaches to epistemic normativity.

Chair: Nikolai Shurakov
Time: 11:20-11:50, 08 September 2022 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.003

Niklas Gärtner 
(Universität of Hamburg, Germany)

Testability and Meaning deco