Cassam Conspiracy Theories

Quassim Cassam Conspiracy Theories Conspiracy Theories

Quassim Cassam

I spent most of my academic career immersed in social science, philosophy, and critical theory but I somehow absorbed a fairly decent appreciation for science which served me well. Environmental science and engineering dominated my work career I spent most of my time sorting through BS, digging out facts and arranging them into patterns that make sense. I generally make quick work of conspiracy theories and struggle with how and why on earth can people believe that crap. Warwick University Philosophy Quassim Cassam writes on self-knowledge, perception, epistemic vices and Kantian epistemology. In Conspiracy Theories Cassam addresses that very problem, arguing that conspiracy theories are politically motivated, are political propaganda and should be addressed politically. He paints a picture of the real point of conspiracy theories is to advance a political agenda and this helps explain why rational, scientific arguments with conspiracy theorists generally fall flat. In explaining the popularity of conspiracy theories Cassam divides his analysis into understanding conspiracy producers (those who invent and transmit conspiracy theories) and conspiracy theory consumers. Cassam makes an important point that conspiracy theory produces often make a lot of money off their theories while promoting a political ideology. He also points out that while many conspiracy theory consumers may believe the conspiracy theories, many others simply find them entertaining and promote them because they support their politics. Cassam's chapter on the problem with conspiracy theories points out that they can cause real harm when true believers act out, when believers refuse vaccinations or refuse to wear protective masks, they fill intellectual space and crowd out "truer" content, and they distort political discourse. Cassam raises numerous interesting points in his discussion of the problem of conspiracy theories and he makes an important point that we are often reduced to some kind of intellectual whack a mole when we tackle the various conspiracy theories head on with rational arguments, but in general his solutions - like don't use conspiracy theories yourself - are a little muddled and unsatisfying. That said, I enjoyed the book and while I think his solutions don't hit the target, he gives us a framework to begin discussions of the problem that will generate useful solutions.

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