Contributions

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Corry Shores

Who’s the Real Paul Masson? Personal Non-Identity in Deleuze’s Orson Welles (2021)


Elad Magomedov

Russo-Ukrainian War and Propaganda (2022)

Belief in Aliens as a Naturalistic Superstition (2022)

The Phantasm of American Greatness (2022)

Lies, Imposture, Stupidity (Review Essay) (2021)


Thierry Lenain

Negotiating Authenticity: The Case of “Jesse James’s” Revolver (2021)


Roland Breeur

The Last Judgement (2021)


Massimiliano Simons

Conspiracy Theories as Social Problems (2021)

Negotiating Authenticity: The Case of “Jesse James’s” Revolver

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Taken in its primary sense, the notion of authenticity refers to a real, and duly established, link between the appearance of a person, a thing, an act or a behavior and its own nature, its identity or its singular history—with an emphasis, in general, on the point of origin of this history. This basic definition invites us to classify authenticity among the negative or oppositional concepts. Authentic is that which has not been falsified. The idea of deception constitutes, in a way, the semantic exoskeleton of a concept which can only be conceived in opposition to the hypothesis of falsity. One of the consequences of this negative constitution is that the attribution of a label of authenticity presupposes the carrying out of tests by which one tries to exclude the possibility of deception.

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Russo-Ukrainian War and Propaganda

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Every modern war is fought on two fronts. First and foremost, there is the physical battlefield, which is the place of territorialization and material destruction. But there is also the spiritual battlefield where battles are fought through territorialization not of extended space, but of consciousness. Such is the task of propaganda: the dissemination of information and images among the troops and the people, with the intention of distorting the way they look at reality in order to attain a desired effect. When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, what was a war in the physical realm became through propaganda a ‘special military operation’ to ‘liberate Donbas’ and ‘de-nazify Ukraine’. Russian state media were immediately geared towards a flood of information and images that justified the invasion as an act of necessity and ceaselessly reported on its successes. Any event involving a violation of international law on part of Russia was ‘debunked’ by the Russian administration as disinformation and lies; if footage depicted dead Ukrainian civilians scattered on the streets as a result of indiscriminate Russian attacks, their corpses were denounced as ‘staged’. Putin’s troll farms, as described by Peter Pomerantsev in This is Not Propaganda, were engaged on social media to spread confusion and misinformation. Following the instructions of the Ministry of Enlightenment,  the curriculum of Russian schools was modified to incorporate patriotism and justification of Russian aggression. This aligned with a series of educational reforms which had begun before the invasion and aimed at an elimination of Ukrainian identity in occupied territories. All these manifestations of propaganda—inversion of accusation, discrediting information, education, and so on—are organized by a consistent narrative which establishes the ‘special military operation’ as an inevitable response to Ukrainian separatists ‘exterminating’ millions of Russian residents and stimulating the expansion of NATO towards Russian territory. As Putin put it in his speech, which he delivered on the day of the invasion, Ukrainian separatism is a product of a corrupted government that after eight years did not accept Russia’s ‘endless attempts’ to “settle the situation by peaceful political means”.

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Belief in Aliens as a Naturalistic Superstition

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Where belief in supernatural phenomena collides with a scientific understanding of nature, the naturalist encounters superstition as no more than a figment of imagination and a remnant of an ancient world. The author of an article about vampires in St. Charles Herald of September 6, 1884, thus speaks like a true naturalist when he discusses “a revival of the old superstitions of blood-drinking bats and men” and remarks that “certainly no more extraordinary or appalling belief ever troubled men’s wits. […] That the dead returned from their graves to prey on the flesh and blood of the living should have ever been believed by thousands of people sounds incredible.” Unlike those for whom it is not only conceivable but inviting to believe that the universe is permeated by forces that transcend natural laws—be they benign or demonic—the naturalist’s imaginary life only finds its gratification within the immanent sphere of the natural; his understanding regarding the origin, the span, and the terminus of reality is confined to the universe understood as a totality regulated by laws of physics and chemistry, which together produce material events governed by rules of causality wherever the necessary conditions for such events are met. Anything that is conceivable without contradiction with naturalist instincts and common-sense ceases to be a ‘mere’ figment of imagination and attains a claim to possible existence, however minimal or hypothetical that claim to existence may be. Hence the conceivable possibility of time-travel, parallel universes, the simulation-hypothesis, and extra-terrestrial civilizations, as opposed to the non-existence of vampires, witches, ghosts, fairies, and angelic or demonic forces. From a naturalistic perspective, the first series of entities is said to be ‘hypothetical’, whereas the second is called ‘superstitious’.

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The Phantasm of American Greatness

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On January  17, 1991, when the U.S. president George H. W. Bush initiated Operation Desert Storm as a response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. found itself putting to the test the principle of a ‘Televised War’. As Jean Baudrillard famously observed, the entire Gulf War only took place as a televised simulation that was produced by the CNN and other major news networks, who reported from the battlefield as the conflict unfolded. Journalists were reduced to actors, action-oriented scripts guaranteed narrative when nothing was happening, cameras framed American war-machines flying above the desert as if they were about to save the world, and the mise-en-scène ensured exhibitionism of high-tech military gear. So extensive was the emphasis on machines and technology, one could have almost forgotten that this war was fought by and against human beings. Baudrillard’s claim that “the Gulf War never happened” aimed precisely at the fact that the public perception of the war in question was completely configured by a certain televised image of war, which the media constructed through a goal-oriented production-process, and which served as an Ersatz for the real physical event that remained in the dark.

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Conspiracy Theories as Social Problems

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Panic! A recent study commissioned by the Belgian magazines Knack and Le Vif suggests that up to one in three Belgians believes in a conspiracy theory. It varies from familiar claims that the moon landing was faked to recent theories about how the coronavirus is a Chinese hoax.

Yet we should not be misled and think that these numbers constitute a major or new problem. It is necessary to situate these results in their broader social and historical context. Once we do so, it becomes apparent that while conspiracy theories are to be found throughout the whole of history, they are always connected to a number of social problems.

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Upcoming events

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This list reports all events that are announced on PhilEvents and which contain any of the following keywords: imposter, imposteur, simulation, simulacre, simulacrum, simulacra, fake, usurpateur, usurpateurs, swindle, forger, faker, veinzen, bedrog, leugen, leugenaar, bedrieger, faussaire, imposteuse.

We are happy to receive and announce information on relevant events in Europe and the United States. The events may include both real-life and digital formats, ranging from conferences to workshops and CFP’s. Feel free to contact us.

‘fake’

  1. CFP: Corpus Analysis, Conceptual Change, and Socially Disruptive Technologies
    Disruptive Technologies New technologies like AI (deepfakes, large language models etc.) or bio and climate
  2. 2nd International Conference on the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory
    theory-induced polarization How do misinformation/fake news and conspiracy theories hang together? What’s the
  3. Extreme Belief and Responsibility
    bubble or echo chamber, or living in a society dealing with fake news, propaganda, censorship, polarization,

‘simulation’

  1. Metamorphoses of Mimesis: Plasticity, Subjectivity and Transformation with Catherine Malabou
    kinds of contagious influences, affective impressions, and simulations of intelligence while also allowing for
  2. Ethics and Epistemology of Virtual Reality
    his starting point the hypothesis that we are likely in a simulation right now and don’t know it. What is certain,
  3. Memory: The Acquaintance View
    about the two main views about memory: the causal view and simulationism.