Northwestern Events Calendar


Northwestern University Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series - Professor Joseph Heath

When: Friday, April 29, 2022
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: Kresge Hall, 1515, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Emily Berry   (847) 491-3656

Group: Philosophy Colloquium Series

Category: Academic


The NU Philosophy Colloquium Series will host the University of Toronto’s Joe Heath.

A conspiracy theory, in the pejorative sense of the term, is an irrationally held belief that purports to explain a series of worldly events by positing a hidden mechanism that promotes some nefarious purpose. In recent years, many critical theorists have been troubled by the suggestion that the “hermeneutics of suspicion” they bring to bear upon various social phenomena encourages the formation of explanatory theories that have the same structure, and thus may exhibit the same flaws in reasoning. If one sets aside the requirement that the hidden mechanism posited must involve intentional pursuit of the nefarious purpose, the question then becomes how the two can be distinguished. This paper argues that critical theorists should respond to this challenge, not by rejecting the concern, but rather by articulating a set of methodological best practices that applied critical theory should respect. This will involve the avoidance, or at least cautious employment, of a set of specific doctrines, often endorsed by critical theorists, that carry with them special epistemic risks. These include an insistence on radical diagnoses of social problems, widespread attributions of false consciousness, relativistic forms of standpoint epistemology, and finally, conflation of the causal and moral orders in explanation.

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