The Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto at Mississauga
PHL105Y5S: Introduction to Philosophy Fall 2018
Essay 1 J. Brunning
The Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories Readings
Brian Keeley, “Of Conspiracy Theories”, The Journal of Philosophy, 96 (1999): 109-26.
In his essay “Of Conspiracy Theories, Brian Keeley discusses certain epistemological issues as they pertain to conspiracy theories. Keeley argues that there are certain features shared by most major conspiracy theories that
make them irrational to accept.
Write an explication of Keeley’s essay, omitting sections I and II. You should read sections I and II for important background information, but your explication should start with the sentence “What is a conspiracy theory?’ on p. 116.
Your essay should be exclusively exegetical. You need not (indeed should not) offer any view of how well Keeley argues for his positions or how satisfactory those positions are. Your are expected only to show that you understand the essay by stating clearly what Keeley is doing. You should begin your essay with a clear formulation of the problem that he is discussing and an account of why it is a problem. You should then provide an explication of Keeley’s position on this problem.
The Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories General Questions
In general, an explication of an essay should tackle the following questions:
(i) What is the problem that the author is discussing? Why is it a problem?
(ii) How does the author set out the problem? How does he or she define the central concepts?
(iii) What is the author’s position on the problem?
(iv) What are the various alternative positions that the author discusses? How does he or she characterize them?
(v) What are the main arguments that the author uses to support his or her own position and to reject alternative
Your essay should be 1,200-1,500 words in length. Essays longer than 1,500 words may be penalized. (Please
include a word count at the end of your essay.)
Essays are to be submitted in electronic format. Information on how to do this will be distributed separately.
The Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories Additional Instructions
It is expected that your essays will be formatted in accordance with the generally accepted standards for written academic work.
! Make sure that you include a title page containing the following information: your name, your student
number, the title of your essay, the name of the course, the name of the instructor, the name of your
teaching assistant, and the date. Essays that do not include a title page will be penalized.
! Please make sure that you are familiar with the document “How Not to Plagiarize”, prepared by Dr.
Margaret Procter, the University’s Writing Support Coordinator. Make sure that you acknowledge the use
of anyone else’s words or ideas.
! It is expected, as well, that your essays will be written with care and attention to matters of style, including
grammaticality (spelling, punctuation, diction, and sentence structure), clarity, and precision of statement.