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Converse Hall, 310, Porter Lounge

Arationalism holds that propaganda is distinctive as a form of political speech in that it constitutively relies on bypassing audience-side rationality. Arationalists therefore struggle to account for bald-faced propaganda, which tends to be crude and is often absurd. Where clandestine propaganda may elicit belief in spite of its audience’s rational capacities, bald-faced propaganda is generally theorized as a flex, as a signal of the regime’s might. Arationalists could respond that bald-faced propaganda is propaganda in name alone. However, the viability of this strategy turns on whether bald-faced propaganda is genuinely functionally distinct from its more surreptitious cognate. I show that the apparent functional disunity among clandestine and bald-faced propaganda is illusory. Both kinds of propaganda aim at inducing certain beliefs and attitudes which illicitly constrain what is epistemically possible for their audience. Propaganda is apt to do this, I argue, because it can be a strategy for epistemic infringement.

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