The Move Tree

When it comes to working on a Phd you can’t just waltz in (these days) with a vague idea and demand the Department find you a supervisor. No, you need to have fleshed out the idea. Take, for example, me. I wanted to do something on Conspiracy Theories. I mean, they sound interesting, they’re very popular and people like to discuss them at dinner parties. I mentioned all this in passing to the Graduate Advisor and his immediate response was ‘Yes, but what’s philosophically interesting about them?’‘What’s philosophically interesting about them?’ There is a popular misconception that Philosophy is a catch-all discipline were any kind of doggeral goes. It’s simply not true; getting a dissertation approved in my Department is much harder than nearly any other Department on campus. We have a fairly high non-complete rate, which is where the Graduate Committee realise that the student isn’t up to the task of writing the PhD and are recommended to stop. So when someone asks ‘What’s philosophically interesting about Conspiracy Theories?’ it means that you’ve really got your job cut out for you. It’s persuade or die.Thus I had to produce this little document here. I (and my supervisors) call it a ‘Move Tree’ because all it really is is a set of possible moves a thesis on Conspiracy Theories could make. It’s almost a pre-proposal (which is what we intended it to be) but it actually worked out as being something completely different. More on that next week. For the time being, have a gander at the following LaTeX prepared PDF and prepare to get down with the nitty gritty of applying for academic life.The Move Tree

4 thoughts on “The Move Tree”

  1. I find the “ballooning by enthusiasm” phenomenon interesting – in some instances, it seems like a case of “I want to play, too!” where conspiracy theorists of varying ilks pile their own pet theories on top of each other. I have, for example, read various anecdotes concerning discussions/conferences on 9/11 conspiracies where people will say things like “but what about the Freemasons? There were in on it too!” and the panel will say wihtout blinking “sure, the Freemasons were involved.”

    The best example is, of course, the Simpsons episode “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy” where the Springfield kids come up with a Unified Conspiracy Theory incorporating everyone’s stupid theories (including Lisa’s made-up “reverse vampires” one that was supposed to show how stupid they were being…)

  2. David Icke is another good example; his conspiracy theory admits something like 37 different species of alien because any anomalous (to his theory) report has to reconciled with his core thesis.

  3. Yes, Icke was going to be my third example (actually the second, with the Simpsons one last), but the comment seemed to be getting unnecessarily long. Brevity, my friend – brevity at all costs!

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