Tag: Events

Have you heard? Rumours and Conspiracy Theories

We’ve all heard the stories. Rumours about government sanctioned attacks on its own people. Hidden military bases in Nevada. Terrorist training camps in the Ureweras. Sometimes these rumours are borne out, sometimes they become conspiracy theories. Drawing on recent work by CAJ Coady and David Coady I will develop a theory which foregrounds the distinction between the activity of Rumourmongering and the propositions (or collections of them) which qualify as Rumours. Whilst Rumourmongering seems to present a pathology of the testimonial process Rumours themselves can be examples of reliable testimony. Yet Conspiracy Theories, which arguably share many characteristics with Rumours, are not usually treated as being reliable. I will argue that this is because Conspiracy Theories exist in contrast to Official Theories and that Official Theories are more reliable, thus justifying our suspicion of Conspiracy Theories but leaving the reliability of Rumours alone.

The Monday Wire Interview, 95bFM

An article about me and the JREF Scholarship appeared in Te Waha Nui last week. You can read it here.

Anyway, I was interviewed[1] yesterday by José Barbosa of the ‘The Monday Wire,’ 95bFM’s current affairs/news show. It’s a pre-record for Monday’s (the 10th) show, so break out your old transistor radio and set your alarms to ‘Fun!’

Oh, that was a bad paraphrase of ‘The Simpsons.’ I’ll slink off now.

1. I’m curious to hear how I sound; it was all improv-ed and I had no idea whatsoever what the next question was going to be. I suspect that I probably sounded more strident about some matters than I am and that other times I probably could have make stronger claims than I actually did. Oh well, Monday will out.

A Case Study in Critical Thinking: The North Head Conspiracy Theory

On Thursday I enter the wide world of corporate speaking gigs with a talk to a group of underwriters at Vero. Yay, verily, I am involved with professional development and yay, verily, I’m somewhat conflicted by the notion.I’m not a friend of Capitalism.I got the gig because one of my Continuing Education students works for Vero and thought my style would work; some challenging intellectual footwrok, a little light humour and a whole lot of love (well, no love; that would break certain ethical boundaries). I’m basing the talk on two other pieces I wrote; a critical thinking primer I gave to the librarians at the University of Auckland a few years back (when we were trying to dissuade the Library from trying to teach their own critical thinking skills programme; that’s a long story in itself) and a paper I presented at a conference a few years back, although the rewrites have almost made it into a new work.All of which is meant to explain the lack of real updates on this site; the testimony work is getting bigger and more involving in re the actual thesis and what started out as a mere paper will likely become a very important chapter in the final product. I think I may have a kind of solution to a tricky philosophical problem in re internal notions of justified belief and external notions of knowledge. A large part of my thesis will revolve around explicating the ‘Inference to Any Old Explanation’ fallacy, which is, I believe, the reason why we are so (rightfully) dismissive of claims of Conspiracy. People often make faulty inferences because they are inadequately informed or they trust unreliable sources, and testimony is a case where trusting an unreliable source can lead to having what appears to be a justified belief. The coherence of your existing beliefs affects what new beliefs you are likely to take on board and this is going to also make you more or less likely to trust particular testifiers. If you believe that the government is conspiring against you, then someone who agrees with your assessment and tells a story about how the government is conspiring is likely to be someone you are going to trust, moreso than me.

Conspiracy Theories – Philosophy and Critical Thinking

Class Number: 21217
When: 6 sessions, Wednesday 25 July – 29 August, 6 – 8pm
Where: Room 202, Arts 1 Building, 18 Symonds Street
Fee (GST incl): $117.00 International Fee (GST incl): $195.80
Class Limit: 25
Course Description: Some people think that Philosophy is all abstract thinking. However critical thinking is a set of philosophical tools that allow us to make informed and well-reasoned arguments towards particular viewpoints. In this course we will look at the application of philosophy to conspiracy theories, ranging from the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, to the Da Vinci Code itself and to the North Head tunnels conspiracy. Through the application of critical thinking skills to the content of these theories you will experience first-hand the practical application of philosophy to everyday life.

More information here.

Critical Thinking

Just a notice to say that my next Continuing Education course at the University of Auckland is open and awaiting your enrolment.

Tutor: Matthew Dentith
Class Number: 91237
When: 6 sessions, Tuesday 17 April – 22 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Where: Room G25, East Wing, ClockTower Bldg No. 119, 22 Princes Street
Fee (GST incl): $117.00 International Fee (GST incl): $195.80
Class Limit: 25
Course Description: Critical thinking is a skill we all like to think we have, but how often have you found yourself wondering just how critical your reasoning is? In this course we will uncover many of the basic skills a good thinker requires and then put them to use in analysing arguments you might come across in newspapers, on television and in everyday conversation.

More info here.