Tomorrow, we will commence this semester’s Philosophy Graduate Seminar Series! As usual, the series will run from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Pat Hanan Room (Arts 2), with speakers presenting from 4-5 p.m., followed by a Q&A period from 5-6, with a short break in between. As philosophizing often makes one hungry, I have made reservations (at least for this week) at the Kiwi Music Bar for pizza and further informal discussion — please feel free to join us for a bite after the talk!
This week’s presenter is Matthew Dentith. Here is an abstract for his talk:
THE TRUTH, THE PARTIAL TRUTH AND SOMETHING LIKE THE TRUTH: SELECTIVE EVIDENCE AND EXPLANATIONS
The contrast between official and conspiracy theories, post 9/11, has become increasingly blurred. Many of the officially endorsed and recognised explanations of events, like the British and American invasion of Iraq, have been labelled, if not conspiratorial, at the very least conspiracy-like.
I will argue in this paper that a number of explanations ranging from seemingly warranted official theories to plausible conspiracy theories are examples of what I will call Selective Evidence Explanations. These are explanations that use carefully selected pools of evidence to make some explanatory hypothesis looked warranted. Some of these selective evidence explanations are used to defraud the public whilst others might be offered by people who are not a relevant authority in a discipline salient to the topic.
Using the example of the competing narratives about the (so-called) October Terror Raids of 2007CE, I will argue that such selective evidence explanations should be treated with suspicion, as they are a pathology of the normal process of inferential reasoning. I will argue that these kinds of explanations are not just part and parcel of modern political discourse but are rife in other disciplines as well and are not just much more pervasive than we might (like to) think but that they also raise interesting issues as to who we can trust.