Philosopher's Holiday Lecture by Lauren Leydon-Hardy

Apr. 10, 2024, 5:00–7:00 p.m.

Rockefeller Hall 200

Lauren Leydon-Hardy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Amherst College will discuss, “The Functional Unity of Propaganda: Bald-faced propaganda and epistemic infringement.”

Arationalism holds that propaganda is distinctive as a form of political speech in that it constitutively relies on bypassing audience-side rationality (Marlin, 2002; Ross, 2002; Stanley 2015). Arationalists therefore struggle to accommodate instances of bald-faced propaganda, which tend to be crude and often absurd (Wedeen, 1999; Huang, 2018; Hyska, 2022). Where clandestine propaganda might elicit belief in spite of audience-side rational capacities, bald-faced propaganda is widely understood as a flex—political speech with the goal of intimidation, which therefore constitutively relies on audience-side rational capacities.

Arationalists could respond that bald-faced propaganda is propaganda in name alone. But, as Leydon-Hardy argues, the viability of this strategy turns on whether bald-faced propaganda is functionally disunified from its more surreptitious cognate. In this talk, she shows that the apparent functional disunity amongst clandestine and bald-faced propaganda is illusory. Both kinds of propaganda aim at inducing beliefs and attitudes that should have the effect of illicitly constraining what is epistemically possible for the audience. She argues that this is because propaganda is apt to what she calls ‘epistemically infringe’—that is, to erode the epistemic agency of its audience through the systematic contravention of the social and epistemic norms characteristic of the signaler-audience relationship.

A portrait photo of Lauren Leydon-Hardy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Amherst College.
Lauren Leydon-Hardy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Amherst College
Photo: Courtesy of the subject