06. Lecture on ‘Blameless Conspiratorial Thinking’ by Casey Grippo

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06. Lecture on ‘Blameless Conspiratorial Thinking’ by Casey Grippo

Date Published: 29 June 2023

This video is part of the series of recordings of the workshop Extreme Beliefs and Responsibility, held at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on 29-30 June and organised by the Extreme Beliefs project. In this video you find a lecture on ‘Blameless Conspiratorial Thinking’ by Casey Grippo.

Conspiratorial thinking is believed to arise from epistemic vices such as gullibility and closed-mindedness; this is not always true. What is missing from the conversation is 1) a distinction between different types of conspiracies one may be prone to believing and 2) a conversation on power dynamics and how those play a role in shaping whether conspiratorial thinking and, more broadly, paranoia may be warranted. This paper is a response to the often-cited fact that ethnic minorities are more prone to conspiratorial thinking than ethnic majorities. My claim is simple: genuine conspiracies have taken place against ethnic minorities and other oppressed groups, and moreover, have perpetuated their oppressed status in society. This historical evidence of conspiracies committed against oppressed groups factors into an oppressed person’s decision regarding whether to believe another conspiracy theory. More specifically, oppressed peoples have a warranted distrust in the mainstream sources that have committed those conspiracies (most notably, the governments in which they live). This warranted distrust can explain why reasoning that might initially seem like gullibility and closed-mindedness are less likely to be vicious. Thus, when oppressed people believe conspiracy theories, especially those claiming to explain a facet of their oppression in society, they are often not succumbing to the typical epistemic vices commonly thought to generate conspiratorial thinking. With this information, not only can we better understand where some types of conspiratorial thinking come from, but we can shift blame away from the thinker and engage in more compassionate dialogue with one another.

Casey Grippo is a philosophy PhD student at Boston University whose research lies at the intersection of social epistemology and political/legal philosophy. Currently, they are interested in the role of trust in building political solidarity.