To a large extent, recent debates on conspiracy theories have been based on what we call the “doxastic assumption”. According to that assumption, a person who supports a conspiracy theory believes that the theory is (likely to be) true, or at least equally plausible as the “official explanation”. In this paper we argue that the doxastic assumption does not always hold. There are, indeed, “non-doxastic conspiracy theories”: theories that have many supporters who do not really believe in their truth or likelihood. One implication of this view is that some debunking strategies that have been suggested to fight conspiracy theories are doomed to fail, since they are based on the false view that supporting a conspiracy theory means, ipso facto, believing in it—while they don’t have grip in non-doxastic contexts.
In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion on why so many people support conspiracy theories, and on what, if anything, should be done to restrain the spread of conspiracist beliefs. Both the empirical debate on the possible causes of the popularity of conspiracy theories and the normative debate on how to deal with conspiracy theorists are usually based on what can be called the “doxastic assumption”. According to that assumption, a person who supports a conspiracy theory believes that the theory is (likely to be) true or at least equally plausible as the “official explanation”. This assumption is “doxastic”, as it claims that supporting a conspiracy theory amounts to…
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