Introduction : the emergence of the notion of thought experiments

In Katerina Ierodiakonou & Sophie Roux (eds.), Thought Experiments in Methodological and Historical Contexts. Brill (2011)
Abstract
Roux begins by exploring the texts in which the origins of the scientific notion of thought experiments are usually said to be found. Her general claim is simple: the emergence of the notion of thought experiments relies on a succession of misunderstandings and omissions. She then examines, in a more systematic perspective, the three characteristics of the broad category of thought experiments nowadays in circulation: thought experiments are counterfactual, they involve a concrete scenario and they have a well-delimited cognitive intention. Her aim in exploring these characteristics is twofold. Firstly, it is to show that each of these characteristics, considered individually, may be taken in a more or less strict sense, and consequently to explain the proliferation of thought experiments. Secondly, it is to suggest that the recent debates on thought experiments might have arisen because these three characteristics are not easily conciliated when they are considered together. Finally, in a third and last section, the nine essays of the introduced book are presented.
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