Gedankenexperiment und Erklärung

Abstract
Thought Experiment and Scientific ExplanationThis essay evaluates the epistemic potential of the scientific method of 'thought experiments', i.e. how far one can progress in science by just thinking about experimental situations without doing real empirical research. The analysis of many episodes from the history of science suggests that thought experiments play an essential role in the formation of new conceptual and normative frames during phases of revolutionary theory change. Thought experiments do not tell us, how things are, but how they might be explained, thus allowing us to reflect the intentional components within scientific theories. The author later wrote a Dr.-phil.-thesis on this subject: "Die Methode des Gedankenexperiments. Untersuchung zur Rationalität naturwissenschaftlicher Theoriereformen." (Bremen University, submitted October 5th 2001, summa cum laude) an abridged version of which has been published in the book: Ulrich Kühne, Die Methode des Gedankenexperiments. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag 2005. 410 pages, ISBN: 978-3-518-29342-3
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