The current discussion of conspiracy theories occurring in the philosophical literature began in 1995 when Charles Pigden reflected on Karl Popper’s influential argument against the “conspiracy theory of society.” Pigden noticed that Popper’s critique was not really directed at conspiracy theories per se, but rather at a subset of that category with extreme features such that few people believe in them. Popper’s argument, Pigden suggests, doesn’t have any force against less extreme theories … [please read below the rest of the article].
Hagen, Kurtis. 2022. “A Bibliography and Brief History of the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 27-37. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-73e.
🔹 The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers.
A Brief History
The next significant foray into this topic, came in 1999, when Brian L. Keeley explored whether there was a significant definable subset of conspiracy theories that could be dismissed on general grounds in a way that mirrored Hume’s refutation of miracles. Ultimately, he found that this would not work. After all, unlike miracles, some conspiracy theories have turned out to be true—such as Watergate and the Iran Contra affair. Keeley’s article sparked a series of responses—by Lee Basham, Steve Clarke, and David Coady. In 2006, Coady collected the existing articles on the topic, along with some new essays, in Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate. That was followed by a special issue on conspiracy theories published in Episteme in 2007, also edited by Coady.
The next notable publication was Cass Sunstein and Adrien Vermeule’s 2009 article, published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, called “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures.” It is significant mostly because of Sunstein’s prominence, but also because of the irony and outrageousness of the proposal: to cognitively infiltrate groups that espouse conspiracy theories. This garnered some media attention, primarily in the alternative media. And several philosophers responded in academic journals (Hagen 2010, 2011; Pigden 2017; and Coady 2018). David Ray Griffin (2011) wrote a whole book responding to it, using it as a foil to defend the 9/11 truth movement.
Also in 2009, Juha Räikkä contributed two articles, one published side-by-side with Sunstein and Vermuele’s article, the other addressing ethical issues, which contrasts with the epistemic focus of most of the rest of this literature. He later (2018) edited a special issue on the ethics and epistemology of conspiracy theories for the journal Argumenta, which is open access.
In 2010, two philosophy graduate students, Joel Buenting and Jason Taylor, introduced a distinction, generalism versus particularism, which contrasted two approaches to assessing the epistemic merit of conspiracy theories. Particularist suggest that each particular conspiracy theory ought to be judged according to its own particular merits and faults, whereas generalists attempt to explain what is wrong with conspiracy theories as a class of ideas based on generalities about them. The particularist approach, championed by Buenting and Taylor, is implicit (if not now explicit) in the work of most of the philosophers who have contributed multiple articles on this topic, including Pigden, Coady, Dentith, Basham, Keeley, and (perhaps waveringly) Räikkä, as well as myself. Current approaches that contrast to the now dominant particularist approach could be called “non-particularist” approaches, as the trend seems to be to find fault with particularism without defending a robust generalism.
The first monograph on the topic, The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories, was published in 2014, by M R.X. Dentith, who has since become the most prolific contributor to the area. Dentith also edited a noteworthy collection, Taking Conspiracy Seriously, in 2018. The following year political scientist Joseph Uscinski published a large collection of essays called, Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them, which contained a few essays by philosophers, among the many essays by social scientists.
Also in 2019, Quassim Cassam, who had previously argued that there was something epistemically vicious about conspiracy theorizing (2015, 2016), takes a different tack in his book Conspiracy Theories. There he argues that Conspiracy Theories (which he capitalizes to distinguish these theories from well-established conspiratorial accounts) function as political propaganda having the effect of supporting right-wing, racist or anti-Semitic agendas.
In recent years, several younger philosophers have joined the discussion, including Keith Harris, M. Giulia Napolitano, Ryan Ross, and Matthew Shields.
My own work, including the recent book, Conspiracy Theories and the Failure of Intellectual Critique (Hagen 2022d), maintains that philosophical arguments that are generalist in spirit have failed, and that many of the social science articles purporting to show some problem with conspiracy theorists are themselves problematic.
Kurtis Hagen, firstname.lastname@example.org, is an independent scholar, and former Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Plattsburgh. He is the author of Conspiracy Theories and the Failure of Intellectual Critique (2022), Lead Them with Virtue: A Confucian Alternative to War (2021), and The Philosophy of Xunzi: A Reconstruction (2007), as well as co-author of Philosophers of the Warring States: A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy (2018).
Bibliography (through July 2022)
There are four lists below. List 1 is a bibliography of works of philosophy, those written by philosophers and published in peer-reviewed academic venues (philosophy journals and books), and address conspiracy theories as a main topic. Book reviews and selected other philosophical publications are included in List 2. Selected related works by non-philosophers are given in List 3. The final list includes selected video presentations by philosophers and a couple of relevant podcasts.
The dominant theme in the philosophical literature is the attempt to clarify the epistemic status of conspiracy theories and could be classified as applied epistemology. Other themes include the ethics of conspiracy theorizing and what it means to be a “conspiracy theory.”
List 1: The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory
• Basham, Lee. 2001. “Living with the Conspiracy.” The Philosophical Forum 32.3 (fall): 265-280. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 61-75.)
• Basham, Lee. 2003. “Malevolent Global Conspiracy.” Journal of Social Philosophy 34.1 (spring): 91-103. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 93-105.)
• Basham, Lee. 2006. “Afterthoughts on Conspiracy Theory: Resilience and Ubiquity.” In Coady 2006a: 133-137.
• Basham, Lee. 2011. “Conspiracy Theory and Rationality.” In Beyond Rationality: Contemporary Issues, ed. Carl Jensen and Rom Harré, 49-87. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
• Basham, Lee. 2018a. “Joining the Conspiracy.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 271-290 (open access).
• Basham, Lee. 2018b. “Conspiracy Theory Particularism, both Epistemic and Moral, Versus Generalism.” In Dentith 2018b (39-58).
• Bezalel, Glenn Y. 2021. “Conspiracy Theories and Religion: Reframing Conspiracy Theories as Bliks.” Episteme 18.4: 674-692.
• Bjerg, Ole, and Thomas Presskorn-Thygesen. 2017. “Conspiracy Theory: Truth Claim or Language Game?” Theory, Culture & Society 34.1: 137–59.
• Buenting, Joel, and Jason Taylor. 2010. “Conspiracy Theories and Fortuitous Data.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 40.4: 567-578.
• Cassam, Quassim. 2016. “Vice Epistemology.” The Monist 99: 159-180.
• Cassam, Quassim. 2019. Conspiracy Theories. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
• Cibik, Matej, and Pavol Hardos. 2020. “Conspiracy Theories and Reasonable Pluralism.” European Journal of Political Theory
• Clarke, Steve. 2002. “Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theorizing.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32: 131-150. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 77-92.)
• Clarke, Steve. 2006. “Appealing to the Fundamental Attribution Error: Was it All a Big Mistake?” In Coady 2006a: 129-132.
• Clarke, Steve. 2007. “Conspiracy Theories and the Internet: Controlled Demolition and Arrested Development.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4.2: 167-180.
• Clarke, Steve. 2022. “Is There a New Conspiracism?” Social Epistemology: 1-14.
• Coady, David. 2003. “Conspiracy Theories and Official Stories.” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 17.2 (fall): 197-209. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 115-127.)
• Coady, David, ed. 2006a. Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.
• Coady, David. 2006b. “An Introduction to the Philosophical Debate about Conspiracy Theories.” In Coady 2006a: 1-11.
• Coady, David. 2007. “Are Conspiracy Theorists Irrational?” Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4.2: 193-204.
• Coady, David. 2012. “Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theorists.” In What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. (The link is to a revised version was published in 2022, in Secrets and Conspiracies, edited by Olli Loukola and Leonidas Donskis. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.)
• Coady, David 2018a. “Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule on Conspiracy Theories.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 291-302 (open access).
• Coady, David 2018b. “Anti-Rumor Campaigns and Conspiracy-Bating as Propaganda.” In Dentith 2018b (171-187).
• Coady, David. 2019. “Psychology and Conspiracy Theories.” In Routledge Handbook on Applied Epistemology, ed. David Coady and James Chase, 166-175. New York: Routledge.
• Dentith, Matthew R. X. 2014. The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
• Dentith, Matthew R. X. 2016. “When Inferring to a Conspiracy Might be the Best Explanation.” Social Epistemology 30.5-6: 572-591. (Republished in Dentith 2018b)
• Dentith, Matthew R. X. 2017. “Conspiracy Theories on the Basis of the Evidence.” Synthese:1-19.
• Dentith, Matthew R. X. 2018a. “The Problem of Conspiracism.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 327-343.
• Dentith, M R. X., ed. 2018b. Taking Conspiracy Theories Seriously. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
• Dentith, M R. X. 2018c. “What Particularism about Conspiracy Theories Entails.” In Dentith 2018b (59-69).
• Dentith, M R. X. 2018d. “Taking Conspiracy Theories Seriously and Investigating Them.” In Dentith 2018b (217-225).
• Dentith, M R. X. 2018e. “Expertise and Conspiracy Theories.” Social Epistemology 32.3: 196-208.
• Dentith, M R. X. 2019a. “Conspiracy Theories and Philosophy: Bringing the Epistemology of a Freighted Term into the Social Sciences.” In Uscinski 2019 (94-108).
• Dentith, M R. X. 2019b. “Conspiracy Theories on the Basis of the Evidence.” Synthese 196: 2243-2261.
• Dentith, M. R. X. 2021. “Conspiracy Theory, Epistemology, and Eastern Europe.” In Conspiracy Theories in Eastern Europe: Tropes and Trends, edited by Anastasiya Astapova, Onoriu Colacel, Corneliu Pintilescu, and Tamás Scheibner (pp. 268-288). New York: Routledge.
• Dentith, M R. X. 2021. “Debunking Conspiracy Theories.” Synthese 198.10: 9897-9911.
• Dentith, M R. X. 2022. “Suspicious Conspiracy Theories.” Synthese 200.3: 1-14. (open access)
• Dentith, M R. X., and Brian L. Keeley. 2019. “The Applied Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories: An Overview.” In Routledge Handbook on Applied Epistemology, ed. David Coady and James Chase, 284-294. New York: Routledge.
• Dentith, Matthew R. X., and Martin Orr. 2018. “Secrecy and Conspiracy.” Episteme 15.4: 433-450.
• Feldman, Susan. 2011. “Counterfact Conspiracy Theories.” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 25.1: 15-24.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2010. “Is Infiltration of ‘Extremist Groups’ Justified?” The International Journal of Applied Philosophy 24.2 (Fall): 153-168.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2011a. “Conspiracy Theories and Stylized Facts.” Journal for Peace and Justice Studies 21.2 (Fall): 3-22.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2018a. “Conspiracy Theorists and Monological Belief Systems.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 303-326 (open access).
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2018b. “Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style: Do Conspiracy Theories Posit Implausibly Vast and Evil Conspiracies?” Social Epistemology 32.1: 24-40.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2018c. “Conspiracy Theorists and Social Scientists.” In Dentith 2018b (125-140).
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2020. “Should Academics Debunk Conspiracy Theories?” Social Epistemology 34.5: 423-439.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2022a. “Is Conspiracy Theorizing Really Epistemically Problematic?” Episteme 19.2: 197-219.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2022b. “Do Conspiracies Tend to Fail? Philosophical Reflections on a Poorly Supported Academic Meme.” Episteme.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2022c. “Are ‘Conspiracy Theories’ So Unlikely to be True? A Critique of Quassim Cassam’s Concept of ‘Conspiracy Theories’.” Social Epistemology 36.3: 329-343.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2022d. Conspiracy Theories and the Failure of Intellectual Critique. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
• Harris, Keith R. 2019. “What’s Epistemically Wrong with Conspiracy Theorising?” In Harms and Wrongs in Epistemic Practice (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 84), ed. Simon Barker, Charlie Crerar, and Trystan S. Goetze, 235-257. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
• Harris, Keith R. 2022. “Conspiracy Theories, Populism, and Epistemic Autonomy.” Journal of the American Philosophical Association. 1-16.
• Hayward, Tim. 2021. “‘Conspiracy Theory’: The Case for Being Critically Receptive.” Journal of Social Philosophy 5.2: 148-167 (open access).
• Heins, Volker. 2007. “Critical Theory and the Traps of Conspiracy Thinking.” Philosophy & Social Criticism 33.7: 787-801.
• Huneman, Philippe and Marion Vorms. 2018. “Is a Unified Account of Conspiracy Theories Possible?” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 49-72 (open access).
• Huston, Mark. 2018. “Medical Conspiracy Theories and Medical Errors.” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 32.2: 167-185.
• Ichino, Anna. and Juha Räikkä. 2020. “Non-Doxastic Conspiracy Theories.” Argumenta 2020: 1-18 (open access).
• Jane, Emma A. and Chris Fleming. 2014. Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid. New York: Bloomsbury.
• Keeley, Brian L. 1999. “Of Conspiracy Theories.” The Journal of Philosophy 96.3 (March): 109-126. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 45-60.)
• Keeley, Brian L. 2003. “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition! More Thoughts on Conspiracy Theory.” Journal of Social Philosophy 34.1 (spring): 104-110. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 107-113.)
• Keeley, Brian L 2007. “God as the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4.2: 135-149.
• Keeley, Brian L. 2019. “The Credulity of Conspiracy Theorists: Conspiratorial, Scientific, and Religious Explanations Compared.” In Uscinski 2019 (422-431).
• Keeley, Brian L. 2018. “Is a Belief in Providence the Same as a Belief in Conspiracy?” In Brill Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion, edited by David G. Robertson, Egil Asprem & Asbjørn Dyrendal (pp. 70-86). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
• Levy, Neil. 2007. “Radically Socialized Knowledge and Conspiracy Theories.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4.2: 181-192.
• Lewandowsky, Stephan. Elisabeth Lloyd, and Scott Brophy. 2018. “When THUNCing Trumps Thinking: What Distant Alternative Worlds Can Tell Us About the Real World.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 217-231 (open access).
• Mandik, Pete. 2007. “Shit Happens.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4.2: 205-218.
• Mohammed, Dima, and Maria Grazia Rossi. 2022. “The Argumentative Potential of Doubt: From Legitimate Concerns to Conspiracy Theories about COVID-19 Vaccines.” In The Pandemic of Argumentation (pp. 125-144), edited by Steve Oswald, Marcin Lewinski, Sara Greco and Serena Villata. Springer.
• Napolitano, M. Giulia. 2021. “Conspiracy Theories and Evidential Self-Insulation.” In Sven Bernecker, Amy Flowerree & Thomas Grundmann (eds.), The Epistemology of Fake News (pp. 82-105). Oxford University Press.
• Napolitano, M. Giullia, and Kevin Reuter. 2021. “What is a Conspiracy Theory?” Erkenntnis.
• Orr, M. and Dentith, M. 2018. “Clearing Up Some Conceptual Confusions about Conspiracy Theory Theorizing.” In Dentith 2018b (141-153) An earlier, open access version is available here on SERRC.
• Peters, Michael A. 2021. “On the Epistemology of Conspiracy.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 53.14: 1413-1417.
• Pigden, Charles. 1995. “Popper revisited, or What is Wrong with Conspiracy Theories?” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 25.1: 3-34. (Reprinted in Coady 2006a: 17-43.)
• Pigden, Charles. 2006. “Complots of Mischief.” In Coady 2006a (139-166).
• Pigden, Charles. 2007. “Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4.2: 219-232.
• Pigden, Charles. 2017. “Are Conspiracy Theorists Epistemically Vicious?” In A Companion to Applied Philosophy, ed. Kasper Lippert‐Rasmussen, Kimberley Brownlee, and David Coady, 120-132. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.
• Pigden, Charles. 2018. “Conspiracy Theories, Deplorables, and Defectibility: A Reply to Patrick Stokes.” In Dentith 2018b (203-215).
• Pigden, Charles. 2022. “Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom Revisited.” In Secrets and Conspiracies, edited by Olli Loukola and Leonidas Donskis. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
• Popper, Karl R. 2006. “The Conspiracy Theory of Society.” In Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate, edited by David Coady, 13-15. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
• Räikkä, Juha. 2009a. “On Political Conspiracy Theories.” Journal of Political Philosophy 17.2: 185-201.
• Räikkä, Juha. 2009b. “The Ethics of Conspiracy Theorizing.” Journal of Value Inquiry 43: 457-468.
• Räikkä, Juha. 2018. “Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories: An Introduction.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 205-216. (open access)
• Räikkä, Juha, and Lee Basham. 2019. “Conspiracy Theory Phobia.” In Uscinski 2019 (178-186).
• Ross, Ryan. 2022. “Can You Keep a Secret? BS Conspiracy Theories and the Argument from Loose Lips.” Episteme: 1–20.
• Schaab, Janis David. 2022. “Conspiracy Theories and Rational Critique: A Kantian Procedural Approach.” Inquiry.
• Shields, Matthew. 2022. “Rethinking Conspiracy Theories.” Synthese 200.331.
• Smith, Nicholas. 2022. “A Quasi-Fideist Approach to QAnon.” Social Epistemology 36.3: 360-377.
• Stokes, Patrick. 2018a. “Conspiracy Theory and the Perils of Pure Particularism.” In Dentith 2018b (29-37).
• Stokes, Patrick. 2018b. “On Some Moral Costs of Conspiracy Theory.” In Dentith 2018b (189-202).
• Sunstein, Cass, and Adrian Vermeule. 2009. “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures.” Journal of Political Philosophy 17.2: 202-227. (Although neither author is a philosopher, this article is included here because of the venue, Sunstein’s prominence, and the fact that several philosophers have responded to it.) For an earlier, longer, open access version of this paper see: “Conspiracy Theories.” A revised version was later published in Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas.
A special issue of the journal Social Epistemology focusing on the philosophy of conspiracies is expected in 2023. It is expected to include contributions from M Dentith, Brian Keeley, Charles Pigden, Julia Duetz, Melina Tsapos, Matthew Shields, Will Mittendorf, Rico Hauswald, Niki Pfiefer, and Patrick Stokes.
Abstracts, excerpts, and links relating to my own work can be found on my website.
List 2: Selected Works by Philosophers Published in other Venues, and Book Reviews
• Alexandra, Andrew. 2014. Review of What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues, by David Coady. The Journal of Mind and Behavior 35.1/2: 83–91.
• Basham, Lee, and Matthew R. X. Dentith. 2015. “Bad Thinkers? Don’t Be So Gullible!” Three Quarks Daily (August 17) (open access).
• Basham, Lee, and Matthew R. X. Dentith. 2016. “Social Science’s Conspiracy-Theory Panic: Now They Want to Cure Everyone.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5.10: 12-19. (An English version of the Le Monde publication, “Let’s Fight Conspiracy Theories Effectively,” is also contained herein.)
• Boudry, Maarten. 2020. “The Truth Is (Still) out There. On the Epistemology and Cultural Dynamics of Conspiracy Beliefs.” (Online manuscript.)
• Butterfield, Paul. 2016. Review of: The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories, by Matthew Dentith. Dialectica: International Journal of Philosophy of Knowledge 70.4: 627-632.
• Cassam, Quassim. 2015. “Bad Thinkers.” Aeon (March 13)
• Cassam, Quassim. 2018. “Epistemic Vices and Conspiracy Theories.” Blog of the APA (February 28).
• Dentith, Matthew. 2015. “I’m Not a Conspiracy Theorist, But…” ForteanTimes 324 (February): 36-39.
• Dentith, M R. X. 2020. Review of Conspiracy Theories by Quassim Cassam, Cambridge: Polity Press. Journal of Applied Philosophy 37.5: 895-897.
• Griffin, David Ray. 2011. Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee’s Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press. (This book is, in large measure, a defense of the 9/11 truth movement. But it is also in some measure a philosophical response to Sunstein and Vermeule 2009.)
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2011b. “Review of David Ray Griffin’s Cognitive Infiltration.” Florida Philosophical Review XI.1.
• Hagen, Kurtis. 2018d. Conspiracy Theory: A Philosophical Defense. Burlington, VT: Fomite.
• Levy Neil. 2005. Review of Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate, edited by David Coady, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 24.1-2: 47-48.
• Pauly, Marc. 2020. “Conspiracy Theories.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
• Millson, Jared. 2020. “Conspiracy Theories.” 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology.
• Turner, Hossein. 2020. Review of Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe in Them, by Joseph E. Uscinski Oxford: Oxford University Press. Insight Turkey 22.4: 284-287.
List 3: Selected Works Related to the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory
This is a necessarily incomplete listing of works by non-philosophers that are nonetheless regarded as importantly related to the philosophy of conspiracy theories.
• Bratich, Jack Z. 2008. Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
• Bale, Jeffery M. 2007. “Political Paranoia V. Political Realism: On Distinguishing Between Bogus Conspiracy Theories and Genuine Conspiratorial Politics.” Patterns of Prejudice 41.1: 45-60.
• Butter, Michael, and Peter Knight. 2019. “The History of Conspiracy Theory Research.” In Uscinski 2019 (33-46). In Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them, edited by Uscinski, Joseph E. New York: Oxford University Press. (Includes a short section on “The Debate in Analytical Philosophy on Warranted and Unwarranted Conspiracy Beliefs.”)
• Byford, Jovan. 2011. Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
• deHaven-Smith, Lance. 2010. “Beyond Conspiracy Theory: Patterns of High Crime in American Government.” American Behavioral Scientist 53.6: 795-825.
• deHaven-Smith, Lance. 2013a. Conspiracy Theory in America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
• Dieguez, Sebastian, Gérald Bronner, Véronque Campion-Vincent, Sylvain Delouvée, Nicolas Gauvrit, Anthony Lantian, and Pascal Wagner-Egger. 2016. “‘They’ Respond: Comments on Basham et al.’s ‘Social Science’s Conspiracy-Theory Panic: Now They Want to Cure Everyone’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5.12: 20-39.
• Fenster, Mark. 1999. Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
• Goertzel, Ted. 1994. “Belief in Conspiracy Theories.” Political Psychology 15.4: 731-742.
• Harambam, Jaron, and Stef Aupers. 2015. “Contesting Epistemic Authority: Conspiracy Theories on the Boundaries of Science.” Public Understanding of Science 24.4: 466–80.
• Hofstadter, Richard. 1965. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Link to the Harper’s Magazine article of the same name, from 1964.)
• Husting, Ginna, and Martin Orr. 2007. “Dangerous Machinery: ‘Conspiracy Theorist’ as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion.” Symbolic Interaction, 30.2: 127–150.
• Martin, Brian. 2020. “Dealing with Conspiracy Theory Attributions.” Social Epistemology 34.5: 409-422.
• Olmsted, Kathryn S. 2009. Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11. New York: Oxford University Press.
• Olmsted, Kathryn S. 2019. “Conspiracy Theories in U.S. History.” In Uscinski 2019 (285-297).
• Pelkmans, Mathijs and Rhys Machold. 2011. “Conspiracy Theories and their Truth Trajectories.” Focaal 59.
• Sutton, Robbie M., and Karen M. Douglas. 2014. “Examining the Monological Nature of Conspiracy Theories.” In Power, Politics, and Paranoia: Why People are Suspicious of their Leaders, ed. Jan-Willem van Prooijen and Paul A. M. van Lange, 254-272. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
• Uscinski, Joseph E. 2018. “The Study of Conspiracy Theories.” Argumenta 3.2 (issue 6): 233-245 (open access).
• Uscinski, Joseph E. (ed.). 2019. Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. New York: Oxford University Press.
• Uscinski, Joseph E. 2020. Conspiracy Theories: A Primer. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
• Uscinski, Joseph E., and Joseph M. Parent. 2014. American Conspiracy Theories. New York: Oxford University Press.
• Wagner-Egger, Pascal, Gérald Bronner, Sylvain Delouvée, Sebastian Dieguez, and Nicolas Gauvrit. 2019. “Why ‘Healthy Conspiracy Theories’ Are (Oxy)morons: Statistical, Epistemological, and Psychological Reasons in Favor of the (Ir)Rational View.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 8.3: 50-67.
• Walker, Jesse. 2015. “What I Saw at the Conspiracy Theory Conference: When Tribes Collide.” Reason (March 18).
There is much more work on conspiracy theories in the social sciences. These lists are not intended to cover that literature. Karen Douglas maintains a conspiracy theory research database on her website that does include such work.
In addition, the organization Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories in Europe (COMPACT) has lists of academic publications on conspiracy theories.
There are also many other relevant discussions to be found here on the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective.
List 4: Video Presentations and Podcasts
The 1st International Conference on the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory, hosted by Brian Keeley and Pitzer College, and organized and moderated substantially by M Dentith, in 2022.
Conspiracy Theory: Understanding a Perplexing Social Phenomenon, Munroe Center for Social Inquiry. A lecture series on conspiracy theories at Pitzer College, hosted by Brian Keeley. (Click on “2017 Lecture Videos” in the menu on the left for a complete list of links to the individual lectures.) It includes talks by the following philosophers:
• Lee Basham: “Governing by Crisis: How Toxic Truths Subvert Mainstream Investigation”
• M Dentith: “Investigating Conspiracy Theories: The Case for Treating Conspiracy Theories Seriously, Even the (Apparently) Ridiculous Ones”
45th Annual Midwest Philosophy Colloquium. Topic: “The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory.” YouTube Channel: University of Minnesota Morris, 2021. This includes the following presentations:
• Brian Keeley (Pitzer College): “Conspiracy Theories and Public Trust”
• M Dentith (Beijing Normal): “Ethics of Conspiracy Theorising in the Age of the Novel Coronavirus”
• Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University/Oxford): “The New Conspiracism and the Old Conspiracism”
• David Coady (University of Tasmania): “Why I’m Not Talking About Conspiracy Theories”
• Charles Pigden (University of Otago): “Conspiracy Theory as a Tonkish Term”
Why Do People Believe Weird Things? Bayesian Brains, Conspiracy Theories, and Intellectual Vices. This is a series of academic presentations collected on Tobias Schlicht’s YouTube page, which includes social scientists as well as philosophers (2021-2022). Presentations by philosophers include the following:
• David Coady: “The Martha Mitchell Effect and the Gaslighting of Conspiracy Theorists”
• Neil Levy: “Why do People Believe Weird Things? They Don’t (Much)”
• Keith Harris: “The Problems with Particularism: Warranted Suspicion of Conspiracy Theories”
Selected Additional Videos:
• M R. X. Dentith: “Just Because it’s a Conspiracy Doesn’t Mean it Isn’t True” (TEDx Christchurch, 2014)
• M R. X. Dentith: “Are Conspiracy Theories (epistemically) Suspicious.” (Undergraduate Philosophy Journal of Australasia, 2022)
• Quassim Cassam: “Conspiracy Theories and the Problem of Disappearing Knowledge” (TEDx Warwick, 2017)
• Quassim Cassam: “Misunderstanding Conspiracy Theories” (PERITIA Lectures, 2021)
• Kane Baker: “In Defence of Conspiracy Theories,” part 1 and part 2 (YouTube, Kane B, 2020) (Baker provides an overview of the arguments in the philosophical literature, and defends the particularist position.)
The Philosopher’s Guide to the Conspiracy. This is a weekly podcast co-hosted by M Dentith and Josh Addison. Particularly noteworthy are the episodes in which Dentith interviews other philosophers about their work on conspiracy theories, and also episodes in which Dentith and Addison discuss a philosophical article on conspiracy theories. The latter episode type is often categorized under the heading of “Conspiracy Theory Masterpiece Theatre.” Brian Keeley occasionally substitutes for Dentith when the topic is one of Dentith’s articles.
Let’s Get Philosophical: Critical Thoughts on Conspiracy Theory Theory: This consists of excerpts from some of my publications that are edited and converted into podcasts.