Here follows a series of notes that may make up the paper I am giving in about three weeks time.
Start off with a quick selection of Conspiracies; Roman, English, Russian and then American.
Then ask the simple question; do these previous instances inform our opinion about the existence or likelihood of their being at least one major conspiracy going on now (the question both Pigden and Basham ask)?
Run Charles’ line: they do. Why? Well, because they are Conspiracies. Past instances of Conspiracies as being common allows us to infer that there may well be Conspiracies going on now.
Run Basham’s line: they do not. The circumstances under which Conspiracies occurred in the past are different to the circumstances under which Conspiracies are now occurring.
The Openness Objection: Western-styled Democracies are increasingly more and more open. As a society becomes more open we find that we can check the processes under which political decisions are made. Should someone rig an election then we can get the vote registries. Should a council try to pass an underhanded motion behind closed doors then we can check the minutes.
The Reply: Basham[?] also talks about hierarchy, and herein lies a possible flaw to his objection. If institutions are, indeed, hierarchical then our society is not as open as Basham thinks. If the voting registry is controlled by a cabal and this is the only way to check the substance of a particular election then the conspirators need only control the registrar to plot successfully. If the minutes of a meeting are kept by a secretary then the council need only pay off the secretary, et cetera. Whilst we appear to be free to be able to check democratic processes this may only be an illusion.
Basham’s reply to Pigden is interesting. He is right to day that Conspiracies today would be different from Conspiracies yesterday but the Openness Objection doesn’t tell us that Conspiracies today are less likely but that Conspirators today must surely act differently.*
This suggests that there is a difference in kinds of Conspiracies. Historical Conspiracies, by and large, operated in a society where there was little to no ability for people outside the cabal to investigate the plots and schemes of the conspirators. That people found out about such conspiracies usually tended to be by accident; a slave or a mistress speaking out of turn, a note, et al.*
Modern day Conspiracies are somewhat subject to the Openness Objection in that it is true that it is now harder to hide a plot or scheme. Whereas in the past conspirators needed to worry about keeping the plot secret the modern conspirator needs to keep their plot consistent; they need to make sure the right documents are faked, the right disinformation leaked, et al.
[It will take some work to show that there is a real difference here, and it might turn out to be so trivial as to be unimportant.]
If there are current day Conspiracies then they should look different to historical conspiracies. Is this true?
All-embracing CTs… Templars, 9/11.
Conspiracy Theories are entailed by Conspiracies but Conspiracy Theories do not entail Conspiracies. We need to run this argument in regards to actual Conspiracies. Do we have examples?
The WMD Excuse for the Invasion of Iraq
The Exclusive Brethren
We can run Charles’ line again, but this time we can talk not about historical conspiracies but whether the existence of conspiracies here and now informs our warrant about conspiracies in future.
Current day Conspiracies: Use the example of the WMDs and Iraq. Use the James Bond analogy. This, I argue, is an example of an actual Conspiracy. Not a good example mind; it was thought to be patently false very early on (probably going some way to show that the Openness Objection is good).
Present instances show, to some degree, that we should expect, at least in the short term future, further instances of Conspiracies, although it could be argued that this is a matter of decreasing degree.
[Could write a paper on what Conspiracy Theories looked at at given points of time, although it sounds more like Sociology than Philosophy. This might be a good thing; Sociologists will print anything.]