Do Thought Experiments Have a Life of Their Own? Comments on James Brown, Nancy Nersessian and David Gooding
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:302 - 308 (1992)
All three authors range themselves against John Norton's deductive analysis of thought experiments. Brown's insight, Nersessian's mental modelling, and Gooding's embodiment, arise, in each case, from a major all-purpose philosophical theory. None reaches down to the specific level of thought experiments, which are small, rare, and precious. I urge attention to Wittgenstein's remark that "the experimental character disappears when one looks at the process as a memorable picture." Thought experiments are not experiments. They are static. They become fixed, more like jokes or optical illusions. Unlike real experiments, they have no life of their own.
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