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Philosophers and Crackpots

The line separating thought experiments from conspiracy theories is thin.

Both the philosopher and the crackpot can build the same argument from the same facts and still remain true to their descriptions. The distinction will be made according to the purpose of their inquiry: are they building an abstract model to gain some insight or sorting facts to fit a preexisting narrative?

Paradoxically, the formulation of conspiracy theories, which are supposedly concerned with the revelation of hidden truths, is truly similar to the process of writing fiction. Developing a made-up story means to evaluate every possible addition (characters, events…) and only adding those who fit the plot established beforehand. This is essentially a sorting job. Conspiracy theorists are the curators of their own twisted museums.

Thought experiments - which are avowed fantasies - on the other hand, are conducted in a process similar to nonfiction works. It is not necessarily more rigorous - fiction, by definition, may require even more care to the logical interlocking of its elements. But nonfiction writers are bound by the truths of the phenomenon they are writing about. They are more akin to archaeologists, digging up the most artifacts possible and conjecturing about their provenance and meaning. They still have to build a narrative, but, unlike fiction, it will be subordinated to the facts and not the other way around.

Once stripped of this nuance, the philosopher and the crackpot are actually pretty similar.

February 26th, 2020 12:01am blog thieny k essay truth writing daily writing thinking thoughts philosophy philosopher crackpot theories conspiracy

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