The Ethics of Conspiracy Theories

The Ethics of Conspiracy Theories March 29, 2016

Conspiracy theories, a recent article emphasizes, are not harmless self-delusions:

In an important sense every conspiracy theory comes at some moral cost. To offer a conspiracy theory is to make an accusation. The accusation may be amorphous (‘shadowy forces run the country!’) or highly specific (‘Prince Philip ordered MI6 to kill Princess Diana!’) but by necessity ultimately there is always another human being at the end of it. And given the defensive logic of conspiracy theories, in which anyone who denies the conspiracy must themselves be a conspirator, buying into such a theory involves making more and more such accusations just to keep the theory alive.

That is not a morally neutral thing to do, however innocent spinning tales of hidden astronauts might seem. The X-Files urged us to ‘trust no one.’ But trust is in fact indispensable, from the level of everyday interactions with strangers and loved ones to the functioning of economic and political institutions. That foundational trust is deeply corroded by the all-consuming suspicion that drives conspiracy theorising.

Read the rest here.


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