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Extreme Belief and Responsibility
Interdisciplinary workshop at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
29-30 June 2023

Invited Keynote Speakers

Ian James Kidd (Philosophy, University of Nottingham)
Janja Lalich (Sociology, California State University)
Ken Levy (Law, Lousiana State University)
Paulina Sliwa (Philosophy, University of Vienna)


Workshop theme
This workshop explores the relation between extreme beliefs and extreme behavior on the one hand and responsibility on the other. The first part concerns the issue of who is responsible. For instance, should we target the individual, the community, or none, i.e., are structural factors to blame? The second part concerns what kind of responsibility is at issue. For instance, how do legal, moral, and epistemic responsibility relate to each other with respect to extreme beliefs? The third part concerns when responsibility attributions are appropriate and when not. What are excusing or exculpating conditions of individual or group responsibility for extreme belief?

It is the third in a series of interdisciplinary workshops of the extreme beliefs project, in which we study extreme belief and behavior as found in fanaticism, fundamentalism, extremism, conspiracy theorizing, and terrorism. Key to the project is the idea that we ought to take extreme believers and actors seriously, meaning that (i) those actors are to be understood as relatively normal, healthy, reason-responsive human beings, yet with problematic ideas and possibly harmful behavior, and that (ii) their reasons, beliefs, narratives, and religiosity are to be understood as crucial to understanding and explaining these phenomena. The project brings philosophical tools, concepts, arguments, and other resources to a so far largely empirical debate. Two previous workshops were devoted to conceptually mapping the terrain, and explanations of extreme belief behavior. Two future workshops will be devoted to extreme beliefs and subjectivity and resilience towards extreme beliefs.

Cautionary note: The workshop will be held physically, but also digitally for those who can only attend online. To register for this event (for both physical and online attendance), please fill in this form.

Conference fee (including catering and conference dinner on Thursday): €200, – (regular attendees), €100, – (PhD students), free for students (joining dinner will be €50, -).
Digital attendance is without fee. Registration will be needed, though.


Program (preliminary) 

Day 1 June 29

9:00                     Registration
9:30-10:15                         Intro by Naomi Kloosterboer, Rik Peels, & Chris Ranalli
10:15-11:45                Keynote Janja Lalich: “Ideological Extremism and Its Outcomes: Lessons from Cult Research on Radicalization and Deradicalization”
11:45-12:15               Break
12:15-13:00                      Lightning Talks

  1. Natascha Rietdijk (Tilburg University): “Gaslighting Narratives”
  2. Carrie Figdor (University of Iowa): “Extreme believers are doxastic addicts, and should be treated as such”
  3. Zahra Rashid: “Material Arrangements & Practices of Echo Chambers: A Case-Study Exploring Extreme Beliefs in Religious Seminaries of Pakistan”

13:00-14:00               Lunch
14:00-14:45               Casey Grippo (Boston University): “Blameless Conspiratorial Thinking”
14:45-15:30                       Katie Peters (University of Connecticut): “Out-Group Arrogance and In-Group Servility in Far-Right American Women”
15:30-16:00               Break
16:00-17:30               Keynote Ian James Kidd


Day 2 June 30

9:30-11:00                Keynote Ken Levy
11:00-11:30                      Break
11:30-12:15              Lightning Talks

  1. Stephen Mathis (University of Gothenberg): “Distinguishing Violent Extremism from Criminal Insanity”
  2. Luca Tripaldelli(Radboud University): “Bearing Witness to Extreme Belief: How Social Media Influences the Imagery of IS women”
  3. RivkahHatchwell (King’s College London): ““Vaccines kill” and other extreme beliefs: a responsibility without blame approach for managing extreme beliefs”

12:15-13:00                      Eugenia Lancellotta: “Putting the Insanity Defence on Trial”
13:00-14:00               Lunch
14:00-14:45               Simo P. Kyllönen & Nini Suni (University of Helsinki): “Moral and Epistemic Responsibility for Beliefs about Extreme Means”
14:45-15:30                       Christian Demmelbauer (University of Vienna): “The Responsibility of far-right theorists for extreme beliefs”
15:30-16:00               Break
16:00-17:30               Keynote Paulina Sliwa
17:30-17:45               Closing thoughts
17:45-18:30                      Conference drinks

Naomi Kloosterboer, Nora Kinderman, Chris Ranalli, Rik Peels & Anna Haase. The extreme beliefs project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (Grant Agreement No. 851613).