Explanation and thought experiments in history

History and Theory 42 (1):28–38 (2003)
Abstract
Although interest in them is clearly growing, most professional historians do not accept thought experiments as appropriate tools. Advocates of the deliberate use of thought experiments in history argue that without counterfactuals, causal attributions in history do not make sense. Whereas such arguments play upon the meaning of causation in history, this article focuses on the reasoning processes by which historians arrive at causal explanations. First, we discuss the roles thought experiments play in arriving at explanations of both facts and contrasts. Then, we pinpoint the functions thought experiments fulfill in arriving at weighted explanations of contrasts
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