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The Logic of Conspiracy Theories III: Argument by Example

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As noted in the previous essays in the series, people who believe in conspiracy theories can use good methods of argumentation to establish their claims. As such, it would be an error to simply dismiss such folks as automatically being irrational or illogical. In this essay I will briefly look at how the argument by example can be used to support a conspiracy theory and how-to asses such reasoning to avoid accepting weak arguments. An argument by example is, obviously enough, when one tries to support a conclusion by presenting examples. It has the following form, although people generally present it informally:           Premise 1: Example 1 is an example that supports claim P.           Premise n: Example n is an example that supports claim P.           Conclusion: Claim P is true. In this case n is a variable standing for the number of the premise in question and P is a variable standing for the claim under consideration. To use a non-conspiracy example, a politician might argue that they are competent in foreign policy by giving examples of their success in this area. There are a variety of ways this argument can be used in the context of conspiracy theories. One is to argue for the existence of conspiracies in general by providing examples that purport to show that conspiracies do occur. For example, a Flat Earther might try to prove that it is reasonable to believe that supposedly proven science can be a hoax or conspiracy by giving examples of such occurrences (such as the Piltdown Man hoax). While this approach is a legitimate use of the argument, to conclude from establishing the general claim that there have been conspiracies to a specific conspiracy theory being true would be an error in logic. To use an analogy, consider counterfeit art. It is easy to find many examples of counterfeit art and. . .

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