Reconstruction, Justification and Incompatibility in Norton's Account of Thought Experiments

Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):69-79 (2007)
Abstract
In one of the most influential empiricist account on the epistemic nature of thought experiments John Norton proposes a challenge: that no thought experirnent in science could be found that cannot be logically reconstructed as an argument. Norton’s account has two main theses, the epistemic thesis that all information about the physical world delivered through a thought experiment comes solely frorn experience and the reconstruction thesis that all thought experiments could be reconstructed as arguments. In the present paper I argue that in at least sorne cases Norton’s theses are incompatible with each other and therefore their combination could not form a reliable account. I try to show that sometimes the experience available could not justify the conclusion of a thought experiment and even contradicts it. I suggest an analysis of Einstein’s Train Thought Experiment as a counterexample to the challenge
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