Why Thought Experiments Do Not Transcend Empiricism
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
In Christopher Hitchcock (ed.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science. Blackwell. 44-66 (2004)
Thought experiments are ordinary argumentation disguised in a vivid pictorial or narrative form. This account of their nature will allow me to show that empiricism has nothing to fear from thought experiments. They perform no epistemic magic. In so far as they tell us about the world, thought experiments draw upon what we already know of it, either explicitly or tacitly; they then transform that knowledge by disguised argumentation. They can do nothing more epistemically than can argumentation. I defend my account of thought experiments in Section 3 by urging that the epistemic reach of thought experiments turns out to coincide with that of argumentation and that this coincidence is best explained by the simple view that thought experiments just are arguments. Thought experiments can err—-a fact to be displayed by the thought experiment - anti thought experiment pairs of Section 2. Nonetheless thought experiments can be used reliably and, I urge in Section 4., this is only possible if they are governed by some very generalized logic. I will suggest on evolutionary considerations that their logics are most likely the familiar logics of induction and deduction, recovering the view that thought experiment is argumentation. Finally in Section 5 I defend this argument based epistemology of thought experiments against competing accounts. I suggest that these other accounts can offer a viable epistemology only insofar as they already incorporate the notion that thought experimentation is governed by a logic, possibly of very generalized form.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
|External links||This entry has no external links. Add one.|
|Through your library||Configure|
Similar books and articles
Denny Borsboom, Gideon J. Mellenbergh & Jaap van Heerden (2002). Functional Thought Experiments. Synthese 130 (3):379 - 387.
Lawrence Souder (2003). What Are We to Think About Thought Experiments? Argumentation 17 (2):203-217.
Alisa Bokulich (2001). Rethinking Thought Experiments. Perspectives on Science 9 (3):285-307.
Martin Bunzl (1996). The Logic of Thought Experiments. Synthese 106 (2):227 - 240.
Michael A. Bishop (1999). Why Thought Experiments Are Not Arguments. Philosophy of Science 66 (4):534-541.
Boris Grozdanoff (2007). Reconstruction, Justification and Incompatibility in Norton's Account of Thought Experiments. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):69-79.
John D. Norton (2004). On Thought Experiments: Is There More to the Argument? Philosophy of Science 71 (5):1139-1151.
Elke Brendel (2004). Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of Thought Experiments. Dialectica 58 (1):89–108.
John Zeimbekis (2011). Thought Experiments and Mental Simulations. In Katerina Ierodiakonou & Sophie Roux (eds.), Thought Experiments in Methodological and Historical Contexts. Brill.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads39 ( #36,197 of 1,005,718 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #64,743 of 1,005,718 )
How can I increase my downloads?