Thought experiments have a mysterious way of informing us about the world, apparently without examining it, yet with a great degree of certainty. It is tempting to try to explain this capacity by making use of the idea that in thought experiments, the mind somehow simulates the processes about which it reaches conclusions. Here, I test this idea. I argue that when they predict the outcomes of hypothetical physical situations, thought experiments cannot simulate physical processes. They use (...) mental models, which should not be confused with process-driven simulations. A convincing case can be made that thought experiments about hypothetical mental processes are mental simulations. Concerning moral thought experiments, I argue that construing them as simulations of mental processes favours certain moral theories over others. The scope of mental simulation in thought experiments is primarily limited by the constraint of relevant similarity on source and target processes: on one hand, this constraint disqualifies thought from simulating external natural processes; on the other hand, it is a source of epistemic bias in moral thought experiments. In view of these results, I conclude that thought experiments and mental simulations cannot be assimilated as means of acquiring knowledge. (shrink)
An explorative contribution to the ongoing discussion of thought experiments. While endorsing the majority view that skepticism about thought experiments is not well justified, in what follows we attempt to show that there is a kind of “bodiliness” missing from current accounts of thought experiments. That is, we suggest a phenomenological addition to the literature. First, we contextualize our claim that the importance of the body in thought experiments has been widely underestimated. Then we discuss David (...) Gooding's work, which contains the only explicit recognition of the importance of the body to understanding thought experiments. Finally, we introduce a phenomenological perspective of the body, which will give us the opportunity to sketch the power and promise of a phenomenological approach to thought experiments. (shrink)
Martha Nussbaum has argued in support of the view (supposedly that of Aristotle) that we can, through thought-experiments involving personal identity, find an objective foundation for moral thought without having to appeal to any authority independent of morality. I compare the thought-experiment from Plato’s Philebus that she presents as an example to other thought-experiments involving identity in the literature and argue that this reveals a tension between the sources of authority which Nussbaum invokes for her thought-experiment. I also (...) argue that each of her sources of authority presents further difficulties for her project. Finally, I argue that it is not clear that her thought-experiment is one that actually involves identity in any crucial way. As a result, the case she offers does not offer any satisfactory support for her view on the relation between identity, morality and thought-experiments, but we do gain some insights into what that relation really is along the way. (shrink)
The Perky experiments are taken to demonstrate the phenomenal similarity between perception and visualization. Robert Hopkins argues that this interpretation should be resisted because it ignores an important feature of the experiments, namely, that they involve picture perception, rather than ordinary seeing. My aim is to point out that the force of this argument depends on one’s views on picture perception. On what I take to be the most mainstream account of picture perception, Hopkins’s argument does not work. (...) But even if we accept Hopkins’s own account, we have good reasons to believe that his conclusion does not follow. (shrink)
Starting with a discussion of what I call Koyré’s paradox of conceptual novelty, I introduce the ideas of Damerow et al. on the establishment of classical mechanics in Galileo’s work. I then argue that although the view of Damerow et al. on the nature of Galileo’s conceptual innovation is convincing, it misses an essential element: Galileo’s use of the experiments described in the first day of the Two New Sciences. I describe these experiments and analyze their function. Central (...) to my analysis is the idea that Galileo’s pendulum experiments serve to secure the reference of his theoretical models in actually occurring cases of free fall. In this way Galileo’s experiments constitute an essential part of the meaning of the new concepts of classical mechanics. (shrink)
Sorensen presents a general theory of thought experiments: what they are, how they work, what are their virtues and vices. On Sorensen's view, philosophy differs from science in degree, but not in kind. For this reason, he claims, it is possible to understand philosophical thought experiments by concentrating on their resemblance to scientific relatives. Lessons learned about scientific experimentation carry over to thought experiment, and vice versa. Sorensen also assesses the hazards and pseudo-hazards of thought experiments. Although (...) he grants that there are interesting ways in which the method leads us astray, he attacks most scepticism about thought experiments as arbitrary. They should be used, he says, as they generally are used--as part of a diversified portfolio of techniques. All of these devices are individually susceptible to abuse, fallacy, and error. Collectively, however, they provide a network of cross-checks that make for impressive reliability. (shrink)
Thought experiments play an important cognitive role in many fields of inquiry, especially in physics and philosophy. Do they also matter in revealed theology? In addressing this question, I will argue first why it is important to do so, then elaborate on the characteristic features of such thought experiments in revealed theology, and finally discuss two instances of thought experimenting in Augustine.
Joshua Glasgow argues against the existence of races. His experimental philosophy asks subjects questions involving racial categorization to discover the ordinary concept of race at work in their judgments. The results show conflicting information about the concept of race, and Glasgow concludes that the ordinary concept of race is inconsistent. I conclude, rather, that Glasgow’s results fit perfectly fine with a social-kind view of races as real social entities. He also presents thought experiments to show that social-kind views give (...) the wrong results, but intuitions might differ on which results are the wrong ones, and social-kind views can resist the implications he derives from these cases. Widespread false beliefs about a concept or category need not undermine anything’s existence, and a sufficiently context-sensitive approach to races will allow for competing criteria for race-membership in different contexts without contradictory criteria in any one context. Glasgow’s arguments are therefore unsuccessful. (shrink)
Brown (The laboratory of the mind. Thought experiments in the natural science, 1991a , 1991b ; Contemporary debates in philosophy of science, 2004 ; Thought experiments, 2008 ) argues that thought experiments (TE) in science cannot be arguments and cannot even be represented by arguments. He rest his case on examples of TEs which proceed through a contradiction to reach a positive resolution (Brown calls such TEs “platonic”). This, supposedly, makes it impossible to represent them as arguments (...) for logical reasons: there is no logic that can adequately model such phenomena. (Brown further argues that this being the case, “platonic” TEs provide us with irreducible insight into the abstract realm of laws of nature). I argue against this approach by describing how “platonic” TEs can be modeled within the logical framework of adaptive proofs for prioritized consequence operations. To show how this mundane apparatus works, I use it to reconstruct one of the key examples used by Brown, Galileo’s TE involving falling bodies. (shrink)
A is for Alice and astronomers arguing about acceleration -- B is for Bernard's body-exchange machine -- C is for the Catholic cannibal -- D is for Maxwell's demon -- E is for evolution (and an embarrassing problem with it) -- F is for the forms lost forever to the prisoners of the cave -- G is for Galileo's gravitational balls -- H is for Hume's shades -- I is for the identity of indiscernibles -- J is for Henri Poincaré (...) and alternative geometries -- K is for the Kritik and Kant's kind of thought experiments -- L is for Lucretius' spear -- M is for Mach's motionless chain -- N is for Newton's bucket -- O is for Olbers' paradox -- P is for Parfit's person -- Q is for the questions raised by thought experiments quotidiennes -- R is for the rule-ruled room -- S is for Salvatius' ship, sailing along its own space-time line -- T is for the time-travelling twins -- U is for the universe, and Einstein's attempts to understand it -- V is for the vexed case of the violinist -- W is for Wittgenstein's beetle -- X is for xenophanes and thinking by examples -- Y is for counterfactuals and a backwards approach to history -- Z is for Zeno and the mysteries of infinity. (shrink)
Marco Buzzoni has presented a Kantian account of thought experiments in science as a serious rival to the current empiricist and Platonic accounts. This paper takes the first steps of a comprehensive assessment of this account in order to further the more general discussion of the feasibility of a Kantian theory of scientific thought experiments. Such a discussion is overdue. To this effect the broader question is addressed as to what motivates a Kantian approach. Buzzoni's account and the (...) assessment developed in this paper are warranted by the fact that the history of philosophical inquiry into thought experiments is deeply interwoven with Kant's philosophy. This history will be depicted here for the first time in more comprehensive terms to contextualize Buzzoni's account in historical and systematic perspective. (shrink)
Several major breakthroughs in the history of physics have been prompted not by new empirical data but by thought experiments. James Robert Brown and John Norton have developed accounts of how thought experiments can yield such advances. Brown argues that knowledge gained via thought experiments demands a Platonic explanation; thought experiments for Brown are a window into the Platonic realm of the laws of nature. Norton argues that thought experiments are just cleverly disguised inductive or (...) deductive arguments, so no new account of their epistemology is needed. In this paper, I argue that although we do not need to invoke any Platonic insight to explain thought experimentation, Norton’s eliminativist account fails to capture the unique epistemological importance of thought experiments qua thought experiments. I then present my own account, according to which thought experiments are a particular type of inductive inference that is uniquely suited to generate new breakthroughs. (shrink)
Thought experiments being central to contemporary philosophy and science, the following questions were asked in recent literature. What is their definition? Are they heuristic devices, arguments, paradoxes? Are they comparable to real experiments? Do intuition and conceivability intervene? Equally imaginative thought experiments are found in ancient, medieval, and Renaissance texts. Paying attention to prime historical examples of thought experiments, we show that historical perspectives help answer these general questions.
This essay proposes an alternative way of studying video games: as thought experiments akin to the narrative thought experiments that are frequently used in philosophy. This perspective incorporates insights from the narratological and ludological perspectives in game studies and highlights the philosophical significance of games. Video game thought experiments are similar to narrative thought experiments in many respects and can perform the same functions. They also have distinctive advantages over narrative thought experiments, as they situate (...) counterfactuals in more complex, developed contexts and present them to players who are participants in game worlds, rather than simply observers. (shrink)
The three volumes that make up Noise in Nonlinear Dynamical Systems comprise a collection of specially written authoritative reviews on all aspects of the subject, representative of all the major practitioners in the field.
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. (shrink)
I begin with an explication of "thought experiment". I then clarify the role that intuitions play in thought experiments by addressing two important issues: (1) the informativeness of thought experiments and (2) the legitimacy of the method of thought experiments in philosophy and the natural sciences. I defend a naturalistic account of intuitions that provides a plausible explanation of the informativeness of thought experiments, which, in turn, allows thought experiments to be reconstructed as arguments. I (...) also specify criteria for distinguishing bad "intuition pumps" from legitimate thought experiments. These criteria help us to avoid being seduced by the dangerous suggestive power of misleading intuitions. (shrink)
Philosophers have traditionally used thought-experiments in their endeavours to find a satisfactory account of the self and personal identity. Yet there are considerations from empirical psychology as well as related ones from philosophy itself that appear to completely undermine the method of thought-experiment. This paper focuses on both sets of considerations and attempts a defence of the method.
The question asked in this paper is: How can we investigate our phenomenal experience in ways that are accurate, in principle repeatable, and produce experiences that help clarify what we understand about the processes of sensing, perceiving, moving, and being in the world? This sounds like an impossible task, given that introspection has so often in scientific circles been considered to be unreliable, and that first-person accounts are often coloured by mistaken ideas about what and how we are experiencing. The (...) first-person experiments I suggest are different from experiments done in the psychology laboratory in that there is no narrowing down of the experiments to looking at a singular aspect of a question, and that they are to be carried out in most instances in a natural or specially structured environment without strict task controls or statistical experimental design. There is no intent to replace formal second- and third-person investigation, but to use a phenomenological approach to conjoin with hard research, and to suggest ways of awareness training that can enhance the skills of researchers. I take as a model an informal phenomenological approach for experimentation. I also suggest that it is possible through directing and broadening the attention process to turn consciousness towards what is non-conscious or unattended to in order to develop an improved sensory awareness and an ability to be open to experiencing without prejudging and without expectations. The idea is to go back to experience without first creating a theoretical stance from which to interpret what happens. I conclude with some other examples of this approach. (shrink)
An interesting link between two very different physical aspects of quantum mechanics is revealed; these are the absence of third-order interference and Tsirelson’s bound for the nonlocal correlations. Considering multiple-slit experiments—not only the traditional configuration with two slits, but also configurations with three and more slits—Sorkin detected that third-order (and higher-order) interference is not possible in quantum mechanics. The EPR experiments show that quantum mechanics involves nonlocal correlations which are demonstrated in a violation of the Bell or CHSH (...) inequality, but are still limited by a bound discovered by Tsirelson. It now turns out that Tsirelson’s bound holds in a broad class of probabilistic theories provided that they rule out third-order interference. A major characteristic of this class is the existence of a reasonable calculus of conditional probability or, phrased more physically, of a reasonable model for the quantum measurement process. (shrink)
There has been a movement recently to bring to bear on the conduct of philosophical thought experiments (henceforth “thought experiments”)1 the empirical techniques of the social sciences, that is, to treat their conduct as in the nature of an anthropological investigation into the application conditions of the concepts of a group of subjects. This is to take a third person, in contrast to the traditional ﬁrst person, approach to conceptual analysis. This has taken the form of conducting surveys (...) about scenarios used in thought experiments.2 It has been called “experimental philosophy” by its practitioners and has been applied across a range of ﬁelds: the philosophy of language, the philosophy of action, the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics.3 The results of these surveys have been used to support conclusions about the application conditions of particular concepts of interest in philosophy. They have also been used to support (and been motivated by) skeptical claims about the traditional approach to conceptual analysis. The.. (shrink)
The Milgram and other situationist experiments support the real-life evidence that most of us are highly akratic and heteronomous, and that Aristototelian virtue is not global. Indeed, like global theoretical knowledge, global virtue is psychologically impossible because it requires too much of finite human beings with finite powers in a finite life; virtue can only be domain-specific. But unlike local, situation-specific virtues, domain-specific virtues entail some general understanding of what matters in life, and are connected conceptually and causally to (...) our traits in other domains. The experiments also make us aware of how easily unobtrusive situational factors can tap our susceptibilities to obedience, conformity, irresponsibility, cruelty, or indifference to others’ welfare, thereby empowering us to change ourselves for the better. Thus, they advance the Socratic project of living the examined life. I note a remarkable parallel between the results of the baseline Milgram experiments and the results of the learned helplessness experiments by Martin Seligman et al. This provides fresh insight into the psychology and character of the obedient Milgram subjects, and I use this insight to argue that pusillanimity, as Aristotle conceives of it, is part of a complete explanation of the behavior of the obedient Milgram subjects. (shrink)
Experimental philosophers have gathered impressive evidence for the surprising conclusion that philosophers' intuitions are out of step with those of the folk. As a result, many argue that philosophers' intuitions are unreliable. Focusing on the Knobe Effect, a leading finding of experimental philosophy, we defend traditional philosophy against this conclusion. Our key premise relies on experiments we conducted which indicate that judgments of the folk elicited under higher quality cognitive or epistemic conditions are more likely to resemble those of (...) the philosopher. We end by showing how our experimental findings can help us better understand the Knobe Effect. (shrink)
Preface: This volume originated in a conference on "The Place of Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy" which was organized by us and held at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, April 18-20, 1986. The idea behind this conference was to encourage philosophers and scientists to talk to each other about the role of thought experiments in their various disciplines. These papers were either written for the conference, or were written after it by (...) commentators and other participants.... We hope that this volume will be of use to other philosophers and scientists who are interested in thought experiments, as well as inspire more work in this area. (shrink)
This paper examines whether non-human animals have a moral right not to be experimented upon. It adopts a Razian conception of rights, whereby an individual possesses a right if an interest of that individual is sufficient to impose a duty on another. To ascertain whether animals have a right not to be experimented on, three interests are examined which might found such a right: the interest in not suffering, the interest in staying alive, and the interest in being free. It (...) is argued that while the first two of these interests are sufficient to ground animal rights against being killed and made to suffer by experiments, the interest in freedom does not ground a general animal right not to be used in experimentation. (shrink)
Against Norton's claim that all thought experiments can be reduced to explicit arguments, I defend Brown's position that certain thought experiments yield a priori knowledge. They do this, I argue, not by allowing us to perceive “Platonic universals” (Brown), even though they may contain non-propositional components that are epistemically indispensable, but by helping to identify certain tacit presuppositions or “natural interpretations” (Feyerabend's term) that lead to a contradiction when the phenomenon is described in terms of them, and by (...) suggesting a new natural interpretation in terms of which the phenomenon can be redescribed free of contradiction. (shrink)
Are thought experiments nothing but arguments? I argue that it is not possible to make sense of the historical trajectory of certain thought experiments if one takes them to be arguments. Einstein and Bohr disagreed about the outcome of the clock-in-the-box thought experiment, and so they reconstructed it using different arguments. This is to be expected whenever scientists disagree about a thought experiment's outcome. Since any such episode consists of two arguments but just one thought experiment, the thought (...) experiment cannot be the arguments. (shrink)
Thought experiments are ubiquitous in science and especially prominent in domains in which experimental and observational evidence is scarce. One such domain is the causal analysis of singular events in history. A long‐standing tradition that goes back to Max Weber addresses the issue by means of ‘what‐if’ counterfactuals. In this paper I give a descriptive account of this widely used method and argue that historians following it examine difference makers rather than causes in the philosopher’s sense. While difference making (...) is neither necessary nor sufficient for causation, to establish difference makers is more consistent with the historians’ more ultimate purposes. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Erasmus University, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
: An examination of two thought experiments in contemporary physics reveals that the same thought experiment can be reanalyzed from the perspective of different and incompatible theories. This fact undermines those accounts of thought experiments that claim their justificatory power comes from their ability to reveal the laws of nature. While thought experiments do play a genuine evaluative role in science, they do so by testing the nonempirical virtues of a theory, such as consistency and explanatory power. (...) I conclude that, while their interpretation presupposes a whole set of background theories and putative laws, thought experiments nonetheless can evolve and be retooled for different theories and ends. (shrink)
Hylomorphism offers a third way between animalist approaches to personal identity that maintain psychology is irrelevant to our persistence and neo-Lockean accounts that deny we are animals. A Thomistic-inspired account is provided that explains the intuitive responses to thought experiments involving brain transplants and the transformation of organic bodies into inorganic ones without having to follow the animalist in abandoning the claim that it is our identity that matters in survival nor countenance the puzzles of spatially coincident entities that (...) plague the neo-Lockean. The key is to understand the human being as only contingently an animal. This approach to our animality is one that Catholics have additional reason to hold given certain views about Purgatory, our uniqueness as free and rational creatures, and our having once existed as zygotes. (shrink)
A number of recent discussions comparing computer simulation and traditional experimentation have focused on the significance of “materiality.” I challenge several claims emerging from this work and suggest that computer simulation studies are material experiments in a straightforward sense. After discussing some of the implications of this material status for the epistemology of computer simulation, I consider the extent to which materiality (in a particular sense) is important when it comes to making justified inferences about target systems on the (...) basis of experimental results. (shrink)
Recently, some philosophers have defended the idea that knowledge is an interest-relative notion. According to this thesis, whether an agent knows P may depend on the practical costs of her being wrong about P. This perspective marks a radical departure from traditional accounts that take knowledge to be a purely intellectual concept. I think there is much to say on behalf of the interest-relative notion. In this paper, I report on some new evidence which strongly suggests that ordinary people’s attributions (...) of knowledge are in fact sensitive to practical interests. This is noteworthy because recent experiments have been interpreted by many to support the opposite conclusion. I also argue that the new results support an invariantist but interest-relativist account of knowledge, a thesis known as Interest Relative Invariantism (IRI). I do not make the case here that IRI gives us the very best explanation of the results presented here. Any such attempt would require an in-depth survey of the last few decades of work in epistemology. I only want to argue here that IRI gives us a simple and elegant explanation of the new data, and that the same cannot be said about traditional contextualism, a leading competitor to IRI. (shrink)
Whereas computer simulations involve no direct physical interaction between the machine they are run on and the physical systems they are used to investigate, they are often used as experiments and yield data about these systems. It is commonly argued that they do so because they are implemented on physical machines. We claim that physicality is not necessary for their representational and predictive capacities and that the explanation of why computer simulations generate desired information about their target system is (...) only to be found in the detailed analysis of their semantic levels. We provide such an analysis and we determine the actual consequences of physical implementation for simulations. (shrink)
A characteristic of contemporary analytic philosophy is its ample use of thought experiments. We formulate two features that can lead one to suspect that a given thought experiment is a poor one. Although these features are especially in evidence within the philosophy of mind, they can, surprisingly enough, also be discerned in some celebrated scientific thought experiments. Yet in the latter case the consequences appear to be less disastrous. We conclude that the use of thought experiments is (...) more successful in science than in philosophy. (shrink)
Experimental activity is traditionally identified with testing the empirical implications or numerical simulations of models against data. In critical reaction to the ‘tribunal view’ on experiments, this essay will show the constructive contribution of experimental activity to the processes of modeling and simulating. Based on the analysis of a case in fluid mechanics, it will focus specifically on two aspects. The first is the controversial specification of the conditions in which the data are to be obtained. The second is (...) conceptual clarification, with a redefinition of concepts central to the understanding of the phenomenon and the conditions of its occurrence. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that (at least many) philosophical thought experiments are unreliable. But I argue that this notion of unreliability has to be understood relative to the goal of thought experiments as knowledge producing. And relative to that goal many thought experiments in science are just as unreliable. But in fact thought experiments in science play a varied role and I will suggest that knowledge production is a goal only under quite limited circumstances. I (...) defend the view that these circumstances can (sometimes) arise in philosophy as well. (shrink)
Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues (...) to Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the best explanation (IBE) does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The general aim of this paper is to introduce some ideas of the theory of infinite topological games into the philosophical debate on supertasks. First, we discuss the elementary aspects of some infinite topological games, among them the Banach-Mazur game.Then it is shown that the Banach-Mazur game may be conceived as a Newtonian supertask.In section 4 we propose to conceive physical experiments as infinite games. This leads to the distinction between determined and undetermined experiments and the problem of (...) how it is related to that between determinism and indeter-minism. Finally the role of the Axiom of Choice as a source of indetermi-nacy of supertasks is discussed. (shrink)
This paper responds to the four critiques of my book Experiments in Ethics published in this issue. The main theme I take up is how we should understand the relation between psychology and philosophy. Young and Saxe believe that “bottom line” evaluative judgments don’t depend on facts. I argue for a different view, according to which our evaluative and non-evaluative judgments must cohere in a way that makes it rational, sometimes, to abandon even what looks like a basic evaluative (...) judgment because we have changed our minds about the facts. This leads me to qualify Tiberius’s claim that our moral judgments always derive, in part, from fundamental evaluative “justificatory stopping points,” arguing that even these can themselves be adjusted in the light of scientific understanding. Weinberg and Wang object to my use of Kant’s distinction between the perspective of the senses and the perspective of the understanding, because they identify it with a distinction between scientific and philosophical worlds. I argue that a distinction of perspectives isn’t a distinction between worlds and that, in any case, the distinction is not between science and ethics. Finally, in responding to Machery’s objections to a couple of my proposals, I return to the suggestion that a coherentist epistemology is required to deal with the relations between science and ethics. (shrink)
My theme is thought experiment in natural science, and its relation to real experiment. I shall defend the thesis that thought experiments that do not lead to theorizing and to a real experiment are generally of much less value that those that do so. To illustrate this thesis I refer to three examples, from three very different periods, and with three very different kinds of status. The first is the classic thought experiment in which Galileo imagined that he had, (...) by pure thought, demolished Aristoteles' dogma that heavier bodies fall more quickly than light ones. I will show that he was mistaken. The second is the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper purporting to show that quantum mechanics must be incomplete in its domain of application. This thought experiment is a very good one, not because its conclusions are correct, but precisely because it was fruitful, leading to theory and, above all, to a real experiment. Finally I discuss the modern string theory of everything, which, while it is regarded as a physical theory by its instigators, shares some properties of the least successful sort of thought experiment. (shrink)
Thought experiments in science are merely picturesque argumentation. I support this view in various ways, including the claim that it follows from the fact that thought experiments can err but can still be used reliably. The view is defended against alternatives proposed by my cosymposiasts.
This paper examines the relationship between simulation and experiment. Many discussions of simulation, and indeed the term "numerical experiments," invoke a strong metaphor of experimentation. On the other hand, many simulations begin as attempts to apply scientific theories. This has lead many to characterize simulation as lying between theory and experiment. The aim of the paper is to try to reconcile these two points of viewto understand what methodological and epistemological features simulation has in common with experimentation, while at (...) the same time keeping a keen eye on simulation's ancestry as a form of scientific theorizing. In so doing, it seeks to apply some of the insights of recent work on the philosophy of experiment to an aspect of theorizing that is of growing philosophical interest: the construction of local models. (shrink)
The literature on thought experiments has been mainly concernedwith thought experiments that are directed at a theory, be it in aconstructive or a destructive manner. This has led somephilosophers to argue that all thought experiments can beformulated as arguments. The aim of this paper is to drawattention to a type of thought experiment that is not directed ata theory, but fulfills a specific function within a theory. Suchthought experiments are referred to as functional thoughtexperiments, and they (...) are routinely used in applied statistics. An example is given from frequentist statistics, where a thoughtexperiment is required to establish the probability space. It isconcluded that (a) not all thought experiments can be formulated asarguments, and (b) the role of thought experiments is more generaland more important to scientific reasoning than has previouslybeen recognized. (shrink)
Philosophers of experiment have acknowledged that experiments are often more than mere hypothesis-tests, once thought to be an experiment's exclusive calling. Drawing on examples from contemporary biology, I make an additional amendment to our understanding of experiment by examining the way that `wide' instrumentation can, for reasons of efficiency, lead scientists away from traditional hypothesis-directed methods of experimentation and towards exploratory methods.
Recent years saw the rise of an interest in the roles and significance of thought experiments in different areas of human thinking. Heisenberg's gamma ray microscope is no doubt one of the most famous examples of a thought experiment in physics. Nevertheless, this particular thought experiment has not received much detailed attention in the philosophical literature on thought experiments up to date, maybe because of its often claimed inadequacies. In this paper, I try to do two things: to (...) provide an interesting interpretation of the roles played by Heisenberg's gamma ray microscope in interpreting quantum mechanics – partly based on Thomas Kuhn’s views on the function of thought experiments – and to contribute to the ongoing discussions on the roles and significance of thought experiments in physics. (shrink)
H. B. D. Kettlewell's field experiments on industrial melanism in the peppered moth, Biston betularia, have become the best known demonstration of natural selection in <span class='Hi'>action</span>. I argue that textbook accounts routinely portray this research as an example of controlled experimentation, even though this is historically misleading. I examine how idealized accounts of Kettlewell's research have been used by professional biologists and biology teachers. I also respond to some criticisms of David Rudge to my earlier discussions of this (...) case study, and I question Rudge's claims about the importance of purely observational studies for the eventual acceptance and popularization of Kettlewell's explanation for the evolution of industrial melanism. (shrink)
In this paper a unified theory of models and thought experiments is proposed by considering them as fictions, la Vaihinger. In order to reach this aim, the Hertzian and Botzmannian interpretation of theories as Bilder is reconsidered.
A characteristic of contemporary analytic philosophy is its ample use of thought experiments. We formulate two features that can lead one to suspect that a given thought experiment is a poor one. Although these features are especially in evidence within the philosophy of mind, they can, surprisingly enough, also be discerned in some celebrated scientific thought experiments. Yet in the latter case the consequences appear to be less disastrous. We conclude that the use of thought experiments is (...) more successful in science than in philosophy. (shrink)
The main concern of this paper is to show that understanding mental variation may prove to be relevant to inquiry into thought experiments. First, I examine why Ernst Mach considered the ability to vary the contents of one's thoughts the principal requirement for thought experimentation. Second, I illustrate the wide applicability of mental variation in thought experiments. Third, I suggest, following Kathleen Wilkes, that variation is frequently employed in “realistic” thought experiments.
All agree that if the Milgram experiments were proposed today they would never receive approval from a research ethics board. However, the results of the Milgram experiments are widely cited across a broad range of academic literature from psychology to moral philosophy. While interpretations of the experiments vary, few commentators, especially philosophers, have expressed doubts about the basic soundness of the results. What I argue in this paper is that this general approach to the experiments might (...) be in error. I will show that the ethical problems that would prevent the experiments from being approved today actually have an effect on the results such that the experiments might show less than many currently suppose. Making this case demonstrates two conclusions. The first is that there are good reasons to think that the conclusions of many of Milgram’s commentators might be too strong. The second conclusion is a more general one. The ethics procedures commonly used by North American research ethics boards serve not only to protect human participants in research but also can sometimes help secure, to an extent, the integrity of results. In other words, good ethics can sometimes mean better science. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
One of the most basic methods of philosophy is, and has always been, the consideration of counterfactual cases and imaginary scenarios. One purpose of doing so obviously is to test our theories against such counterfactual cases. Although this method is widespread, it is far from being commonly accepted. Especially during the last two decades it has been confronted with criticism ranging from complete dismissal to denying only its critical powers to a cautious defense of the use of thought experiments (...) as counterexamples. One of the strongest criticisms of the method of thought experimentation is "modal skepticism" as explicated and defended by Peter van Inwagen. Van Inwagen argues that the philosopher's notion of logical possibility is confused and that its epistemology is dubious. I argue that van Inwagen's skepticism is unwarranted. There is a sufficiently clear notion of logical possibility and a sufficiently straightforward way of getting to know what is logically possible. In the remainder of the paper I show how that connects with the methodology of thought experimentation in philosophy. (shrink)
In Experiment, Right or Wrong, Allan Franklin continues his investigation of the history and philosophy of experiment presented in his previous book, The Neglect of Experiment. In this new study, Franklin considers the fallibility and corrigibility of experimental results and presents detailed histories of two such episodes: 1) the experiment and the development of the theory of weak interactions from Fermi's theory in 1934 to the V-A theory of 1957 and 2) atomic parity violation experiments and the Weinberg-Salam unified (...) theory of electroweak interactions of the 1970s and 1980s. In these episodes Franklin demonstrates not only that experimental results can be wrong, but also that theoretical calculations and the comparison between experiment and theory can also be incorrect. In the second episode, Franklin contrasts his view of an "evidence model" of science in which questions of theory choice, confirmation, and refutation are decided on the basis of reliable experimental evidence, with that proposed by the social constructivists. (shrink)
Thought experiment acquires evidential significance only on particular metaphysical assumptions. These include the thesis that science aims at uncovering "phenomena"universal and stable modes in which the world is articulatedand the thesis that phenomena are revealed imperfectly in actual occurrences. Only on these Platonically inspired assumptions does it make sense to bypass experience of actual occurrences and perform thought experiments. These assumptions are taken to hold in classical physics and other disciplines, but not in sciences that emphasize variety and contingency, (...) such as Aristotelian natural philosophy and some forms of historiography. This explains why thought experiments carry weight in the former but not the latter disciplines. (shrink)
Few people have thought so hard about the nature of the quantum theory as has Jeff Bub,· and so it seems appropriate to offer in his honor some reflections on that theory. My topic is an old one, the consistency of our microscopic theories with our macroscopic theories, my example, the Aspect experiments (Aspect et al., 1981, 1982, 1982a; Clauser and Shimony, l978;_Duncan and Kleinpoppen, 199,8) is familiar, and my sirnplrcation of it is borrowed. All that is new here (...) is a kind of diagonalization: an argument that the fundamental principles found to be violated by the quantum theory must be assumed to be true of the experimental apparatus used in the experiments.. (shrink)
Roy Sorensen advances an evolutionary explanation of our capacity for thought experiments which doubles as a naturalized epistemological justification. I argue Sorensens explanation fails to satisfy key elements of environmental-selectionist explanations and so fails to carry epistemic force. I then argue that even if Sorensen succeeds in showing the adaptive utility of our capacity, he still fails to establish its reliability and hence epistemic utility. I conclude Sorensens account comes to little more than a just-so story.
We have never entirely agreed with Daniel Cohnitz on the status and rôle of thought experiments. Several years ago, enjoying a splendid lunch together in the city of Ghent, we cheerfully agreed to disagree on the matter; and now that Cohnitz has published his considered opinion of our views, we are glad that we have the opportunity to write a rejoinder and to explicate some of our disagreements. We choose not to deal here with all the issues that Cohnitz (...) raises, but rather to restrict ourselves to three specific points. (shrink)
Can we test philosophical thought experiments, such as whether people would enter an experience machine or would leave one once they are inside? Dan Weijers, responding to me "Can We Test the Experience Machine?" suggests that since “rational” subjects (e.g. students taking surveys in class) are believable, we can do so. By contrast, I argue that because such subjects have the wrong affect (i.e. emotional state), such tests are worthless. Moreover, understood as a general policy, such pretend testing would (...) ruin the results of most psychological tests, such as those of helping behavior, attitudes to authority, moral transgressions, etc. However, I argue that certain philosophical thought experiments do not require us to have any affect to understand them, and so can be tested. Generally, experimental philosophy must adhere to this limit, on pain of offering vacuous results. (shrink)
Since there isn't a computer that seems conscious at this time, the idea of machine consciousness is supported by thought experiments. Here's one old chestnut: "What if you replaced your neurons one by one with neuron sized and shaped substitutes made of silicon chips that perfectly mimicked the chemical and electric functions of the originals? If you just replaced one single neuron, surely you'd feel the same. As you proceed, as more and more neurons are replaced, you'd stay conscious. (...) Why wouldn't you still be conscious at the end of the process, when you'd reside in a brain shaped glob of silicon? And why couldn't the resulting replacement brain have been manufactured by some other means?". (shrink)
In her 1996 book, Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge, Deborah Mayo argues that use- (or heuristic) novelty is not a criterion we need to consider in assessing the evidential value of observations. Using the notion of a ''severe'' test, Mayo claims that such novelty is valuable only when it leads to severity, and never otherwise. To illustrate her view, she examines the historical case involving the famous 1919 British eclipse expeditions that generated observations supporting Einstein's theory of gravitation (...) over Newton's. My plan here is to defend use-novelty as a valuable methodological principle. I begin by exposing a weakness in Mayo's criticism of use-novelty. Remedying this weakness re-establishes the worth of use-novelty under specific conditions; in particular, heuristically novel data are to be preferred, as I will say, ''prima facie''. Armed with this revised version of use-novelty, I re-examine the history of the eclipse experiments and offer an interpretation of this episode that to an extent-and contrary to Mayo-restores the mildly heretical, Earman/Glymour evaluation of this episode offered in their (1980). I conclude by responding to criticism of my assessment of Mayo's work. (shrink)
Ethology brought some crucial insights and perspectives to the study of behavior, in particular the idea that behavior can be studied within a comparative-evolutionary framework by means of homologizing components of behavioral patterns and by causal analysis of behavior components and their integration. Early ethology is well-known for its extensive use of qualitative observations of animals under their natural conditions. These observations are combined with experiments that try to analyze behavioral patterns and establish specific claims about animal behavior. Nowadays, (...) there is still disagreement about the significance of observation and experiments and their relation. (shrink)
We advocate and share the same theoretical framework for empirical research in ethics as exemplified in Christina Bicchieri’s The Grammar of Society. Our research differs from Bicchieri’s in our approach to experimentation: where she relies on lab experiments, we have constructed an experimental platform based on an internet survey instrument; where she relies on rational reconstructions, we do not. In this paper we focus on four contrasts in our methods: (1) we provide a space to explore ethical influence and (...) norm transmission between participants, belief and choice revision, and reputation over time; (2) we provide ways for participants to expand the context of their and others’ decisions; (3) we focus on more realistic ethical decisions than is allowed by games; and (4) we explain why Bicchieri’s method of rational reconstructions presents challenges to her theory of social norms. Our methods are complementary to Bicchieri’s, and together we can work toward developing more comprehensive empirically informed ethics. †To contact the authors, please write to Peter Danielson, W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia, 227‐6356 Agricultural Road, Vancouver, V6T 1Z2, Canada; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
The scales across which physical properties exist are vast and subtle in their effects on particular systems placed locally on such scales. For example, human experiential access is restricted only to partial segments of the mass density, size, and temperature scales of the universe. I argue that philosophers must learn to appreciate better the effects of physical scales. Specifically, thought experiments in philosophy should be more sensitive to physical scale effects, because the conclusion of a thought experiment may be (...) undermined by unintentionally ignored scale effects, and the changes required to obtain the foreground state of affairs in a thought experiment might require unacknowledged scale-spanning changes to the contextual background. I discuss four philosophical thought experiments: Putnam's Twin Earth and Brain in a Vat, Searle's Chinese Room, and Chalmers's Zombies Without Qualia. I close by briefly defending the greater interest and importance of physical possibility over logical possibility. (shrink)
An overview is provided of how the concept of the thought experiment has developed and changed for the natural sciences in the course of the 20th century. First, we discuss the existing definitions of the term 'thought experiment' and the origin of the thought experimentation method, identifying it in Greek Presocratics epoch. Second, only in the end of the 19th century showed up the first systematic enquiry on thought experiments by Ernst Mach's work. After the Mach's work, a negative (...) attitude towards thought experiments came in the beginning of the 20th century, which went on until the Thomas Kuhn's and Karl Popper's work on thought experiments. Only from the mid-1980s did thought experiments begin to be considered relevant to scientific enterprise. Finally, we show the existing empirical and 'functional' theories which have developed about the nature and purpose of thought experiments. (shrink)
What is the impact of science on philosophy? In “Experiments in Ethics”, Kwame Anthony Appiah addresses this question for morality and ethics. Appiah suggests that scientific results may undermine moral intuitions by undermining our confidence in the actual sources of our intuitions, or by invalidating our factual assumptions about the causes of human behavior. Appiah worries that scientific results showing situational causes on human behavior force us to abandon the intuition, formalized in virtue ethics, that what matters is “who (...) you are on the inside”. In this review, we agree with Appiah that scientific results at once force and do not force us to abandon this intuition. We also propose that Appiah’s worry is due in part to an over-simplified conception of “internal causes”, shared widely among scientists and philosophers. By re-introducing the true richness of internal causes invoked in moral judgments, we hope to relax the tension between scientific results and moral intuitions. Ultimately, we propose that science can undermine and constrain but cannot affirm our commitment to specific moral intuitions. (shrink)
Social scientists have traditionally attempted to avoid extending strategies for acquiring experimental knowledge to the sphere of the social. Bruno Latour, however, has introduced a notion of the collective experiment, an experiment conducted by and with us all. In this short paper I seek to explore, by way of elucidating the talk of collective experiments, that Latour's notion has long since existed in the theory and practice of ecological design and restoration. Practitioners in ecological restoration projects find themselves in (...) a situation of double contingency, since neither do they know how nature will respond to their intervention nor is their interpretation of these responses already certain. Experimental practice in society then becomes the proceduralization of this contingency. (shrink)
In the seventeenth century, Newton published his famous experimentum crucis, in which he claimed that light is heterogeneous and is composed of (colored) rays with different refrangibilities. Experiments, especially a crucial experiment, were important for justifying Newton’s theory of light, and eventually his theory of color. Goethe conducted a series of experiments on the nature of color, especially in contradistinction to Newton, and he defended his research with a methodological principle formulated in “Der Versuch als Vermittler.” Goethe’s principle (...) included a series of experiments and resultant higher empirical evidence as mediator between the objective (natural phenomena) and the subjective (theory or hypothesis). Although the notion of experimentum crucis became popular among scientists, even until today, in reconstructing experimental research and for justifying theories, especially for rhetorical purposes, I propose that Newton’s justification of his theory of light and color is best reconstructed in terms of Goethe’s methodological principle. Finally, Goethe’s principle has important consequences for the contemporary philosophical underdetermination thesis. (shrink)
Starting with a discussion of what I call `Koyré's paradox of conceptual novelty', I introduce the ideas of Damerow et al. on the establishment of classical mechanics in Galileo's work. I then argue that although their view on the nature of Galileo's conceptual innovation is convincing, it misses an essential element: Galileo's use of the experiments described in the first day of the Two New Sciences. I describe these experiments and analyze their function. Central to my analysis is (...) the idea that Galileo's pendulum experiments serve to secure the reference of his theoretical models in actually occurring cases of free fall. In this way, Galileo's experiments constitute an essential part of the meaning of the new concepts of classical mechanics. (shrink)
In his Experiments in Ethics , Appiah focuses mostly on the dimension of naturalism as a naturalism of deprivation - naturalism’s apparent robbing us of aspects of the world that we had held dear. The aim of this paper is to remind him of that naturalism has a dimension of plenitude as well - its capacity to enrich our conception of the world as well. With regard to character, we argue that scientific psychology can help provide a conception of (...) character as dynamic, in a way that may preserve many key aspects of eudaimonistic ethics from the situationists’ challenge. With regard to intuition, we address Appiah’s worry that naturalistic explanations of the sources of our intuitions may leave us feeling that those intuitions have been thereby debunked. We suggest that it may be that feeling of debunking that should itself be debunked. (shrink)
Commenting on Atkinson's paper I argue that leading to a successful real experiment is not the only scale on which a thought experiment's value is judged. Even the path from the original EPR thought experiment to Aspect's verification of the Bell inequalities was long-winded and involved considerable input from the sides of technology and mathematics. Von Neumann's construction of hidden variables was, moreover, a genuinely mathematical thought experiment that was successfully criticized by Bell. Such thought experiments are also (...) possible in string theory, where any (non-trivial) empirical corroboration seems to be out of reach. Yet appraising mathematical thought experiments and their contribution to physical thought experiments requires a dynamical account which in the spirit of Mach and Lakatos attributes due weight to informal mathematical reasoning or empirical intuition. (shrink)
By analysing the historical case of the proportionality between inertia and gravitation, it is possible to reconstruct one of the most relevant moments in the history of physics, that is to say, the one linked with Eötvös' experiments. At the same time, this reconstruction offers the opportunity to carry out philosophical considerations about the relationship between theory and experiment and about the concept of incommensurability.
Researchers from across the social sciences have found consistent deviations from the predictions of the canonical model of self-interest in hundreds of experiments from around the world. This research, however, cannot determine whether the uniformity results from universal patterns of human behavior or from the limited cultural variation available among the university students used in virtually all prior experimental work. To address this, we undertook a cross-cultural study of behavior in ultimatum, public goods, and dictator games in a range (...) of small-scale societies exhibiting a wide variety of economic and cultural conditions. We found, first, that the canonical model – based on self-interest – fails in all of the societies studied. Second, our data reveal substantially more behavioral variability across social groups than has been found in previous research. Third, group-level differences in economic organization and the structure of social interactions explain a substantial portion of the behavioral variation across societies: the higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs to cooperation in everyday life, the greater the level of prosociality expressed in experimental games. Fourth, the available individual-level economic and demographic variables do not consistently explain game behavior, either within or across groups. Fifth, in many cases experimental play appears to reflect the common interactional patterns of everyday life. Key Words: altruism; cooperation; cross-cultural research; experimental economics; game theory; ultimatum game; public goods game; self-interest. (shrink)
I defend the view that single experiments can provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses against the widely held belief that “crucial experiments” are impossible. My argument is based on the examination of a historical case from molecular biology, namely the Meselson-Stahl experiment. “The most beautiful experiment in biology”, as it is known, provided the first experimental evidence for the operation of a semi-conservative mechanism of DNA replication, as predicted by Watson and Crick (...) in 1953. I use a mechanistic account of explanation to show that this case is best construed as an inference to the best explanation (IBE). Furthermore, I show how such an account can deal with Duhem's well-known arguments against crucial experiments as well as Van Fraassen's “bad lot” argument against IBE. (shrink)
Syntactic and structural models specify relationships between their constituents but cannot show what outcomes their interaction would produce over time in the world. Simulation consists in iterating the states of a model, so as to produce behaviour over a period of simulated time. Iteration enables us to trace the implications and outcomes of inference rules and other assumptions implemented in the models that make up a theory. We apply this method to experiments which we treat as models of the (...) particular aspects of reality they are designed to investigate. Scientific experiments are constantly designed and re-designed in the context of implementation and use. They mediate between theoretical understanding and the practicalities of engaging with the empirical and social world. In order to model experiments we need to identify and represent features that all experiments have in common. We treat these features as parameters of a general model of experiment so that by varying these parameters different types of experiment can be modelled. (shrink)
In the 1960s molecular population geneticists used Monte Carlo experiments to evaluate particular diffusion equation models. In this paper I examine the nature of this comparative evaluation and argue for three claims: first, Monte Carlo experiments are genuine experiments: second, Monte Carlo experiments can provide an important meansfor evaluating the adequacy of highly idealized theoretical models; and, third, the evaluation of the computational adequacy of a diffusion model with Monte Carlo experiments is significantlydifferent from the (...) evaluation of the emperical adequacy of the same diffusion model. (shrink)
This paper constructs two classes of models for the quantum correlation experiments used to test the Bell-type inequalities, synchronization models and prism models. Both classes employ deterministic hidden variables, satisfy the causal requirements of physical locality, and yield precisely the quantum mechanical statistics. In the synchronization models, the joint probabilities, for each emission, do not factor in the manner of stochastic independence, showing that such factorizability is not required for locality. In the prism models the observables are not random (...) variables over a common space; hence these models throw into question the entire random variables idiom of the literature. Both classes of models appear to be testable. (shrink)
Several different Bayesian models of epistemic utilities (see, e. g., , , , ) have been used to explain why it is rational for scientists to perform experiments. In this paper, I argue that a model-suggested independently by Patrick Maher  and Graham Oddie -that assigns epistemic utility to degrees of belief in hypotheses provides the most comprehensive explanation. This is because this proper scoring rule (PSR) model captures a wider range of scientifically acceptable attitudes toward epistemic risk than (...) the other Bayesian models that have been proposed. I also argue, however, that even the PSR model places unreasonably tight restrictions on a scientist's attitude toward epistemic risk. As a result, such Bayesian models of epistemic utilities fail as normative accounts-not just as descriptive accounts (see, e. g., , )-of scientific inquiry. (shrink)
This article analyzes a type of experiment, very popular in 18th-century natural philosophy, which has apparently not led to insights into nature but which was aesthetically especially attractive. These experiments--"mimetic experiments"--allow us to trace a connection between aesthetic appreciation in science and in art contemporaneous with the science. I use this case as a problem for McAllister's theory of aesthetic induction according to which aesthetic standards in science tend to be associated with empirical success and propose an alternative (...) mechanism that is able to account for the natural philosophers' predilection for unsuccessful but beautiful experiments. (shrink)
Henrich et al.’s article fleshes out in a very useful and timely manner comments often heard but rarely published about the extraordinary cultural imbalance in the recruitment of participants in psychology experiments and the doubt this casts on generalization of findings from these “weird” samples to humans in general. The authors mention that one of the concerns they have met in defending their views has been of a methodological nature: “the observed variation across populations may be due to various (...) methodological artifacts that arise from translating experiments across contexts” (sect. 7.2, para. 1). Here we want to express a less sweeping methodological concern. While accepting the general conclusions and recommendations of the article, we believe they should be complemented with a.. (shrink)
Thought experiments in the history of science display a striking asymmetry between chemistry and physics, namely that chemistry seems to lack well-known examples, whereas physics presents many famous examples. This asymmetry, I argue, is not independent data concerning the chemistry/physics distinction. The laws of chemistry such as the periodic table are incurably special, in that they make testable predictions only for a very restricted range of physical conditions in the universe which are necessarily conditioned by the contingences of chemical (...) investigation. The argument depends on how ‚thought experiment’ is construed. Here, several recent accounts of thought experiments are surveyed to help formulate what I call ‚crucial’ thought experiments. These have a historical role in helping to judge between hypotheses in physics, but are not helpful in chemistry past or present. (shrink)
Are there relationships between consciousness and the material world? Empirical evidence for such a connection was reported in several meta-analyses of mind-matter experiments designed to address this question. In this paper we consider such meta-analyses from a statistical modeling perspective, emphasizing strategies to validate the models and the associated statistical procedures. In particular, we explicitly model increased data variability and selection mechanisms, which permits us to estimate 'selection profiles ' and to reassess the experimental effect in view of potential (...) other effects. An application to the data pool considered in the influential meta-analysis of Radin and Nelson (1989) yields indications for the presence of random and selection effects Adjustment for possible selection is found to render the,without such an adjustment significant, experimental effect non-significant. Somewhat different conclusions apply to a subset of the data deserving separate consideration. The actual origin of the data features that are described as experimental, random, or selection effects within the proposed model cannot be clarified y our approach and remains open. (shrink)
Will the proliferation of devices that provide the continuous archival and retrieval of personal experiences (CARPE) improve control over, access to and the record of collective knowledge as Vannevar Bush once predicted with his futuristic memex? Or is it possible that their increasing ubiquity might pose fundamental risks to humanity, as Donald Norman contemplated in his investigation of an imaginary CARPE device he called the “Teddy”? Through an examination of the webcam experiment of Jenni Ringley and the EyeTap experiments (...) of Steve Mann, this article explores some of the social implications of CARPE. The authors’ central claim is that focussing on notions of individual consent and control in assessing the privacy implications of CARPE while reflective of the individualistic conception of privacy that predominates western thinking, is nevertheless inadequate in terms of recognizing the effect of individual uptake of these kinds of technologies on the level of privacy we are all collectively entitled to expect. The authors urge that future analysis ought to take a broader approach that considers contextual factors affecting user groups and the possible limitations on our collective ability to control the social meanings associated with the subsequent distribution and use of personal images and experiences after they are captured and archived. The authors ultimately recommend an approach that takes into account the collective impact that CARPE technologies will have on privacy and identity formation and highlight aspects of that approach. (shrink)
Pest control operations andexperimentation on sentient animals such as thebrushtail possum can cause unnecessary andavoidable suffering in the animal subjects.Minimizing animal suffering is an animalwelfare goal and can be used as a guide in thedesign and execution of animal experimentationand pest control operations.The public has little sympathy for the possum,which can cause widespread environmentaldamage, but does believe that control should beas painless as possible. Trapping and poisoningprovide only short-term solutions to the possumproblem and often involve methods that causesuffering. Intrusive (...) class='Hi'>experiments connected withthese methods of control and published in thelast 6 years are reviewed. Many of theexperiments do not attain the welfare standardsrequired by members of the public. (shrink)
Grunbaum has argued that the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction hypothesis is not ad hoc since the Kennedy-Thorndike experiment can be used to provide a test that is significantly different from that provided by the Michelson-Morley experiment. In the first part of the paper, I show that the differences claimed by Grunbaum to hold between these two experiments are not sufficient for establishing independent testability. A dilemma is developed: either the Kennedy-Thorndike experiment, because of experimental realities, cannot test the uncontracted Fresnel aether (...) theory, or if experimental difficulties are ignored, the Kennedy-Thorndike experiment degenerates into a version of the Michelson-Morley experiment. The second part of the paper is a feasibility study of the prospects for defining experimental types according to aims of measurement and determination. This approach is applied to the contraction hypothesis, where it is suggested that the usual analysis of independent testability be modified. (shrink)
The paper springs from a position that economic theory is an abstract investigation of the concepts and considerations involved in real life economic decision making rather than a tool for predicting or describing real behavior. It is argued that when experimental economics is motivated by theory, it should not look to verify the predictions of theory but instead should focus on verifying that the considerations contained in the economic model are sound and in common use. It is argued that when (...) theory is motivated by experiments, the theorist should not be hasty in adopting new functional forms but should try to identify the basic psychological themes which are revealed exposed by the experiment. Finally, some critical comments on the methodology of experimental economics are presented. 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Robots are being extensively used for the purpose of discovering and testing empirical hypotheses about biological sensorimotor mechanisms. We examine here methodological problems that have to be addressed in order to design and perform “good” experiments with these machine models. These problems notably concern the mapping of biological mechanism descriptions into robotic mechanism descriptions; the distinction between theoretically unconstrained “implementation details” and robotic features that carry a modeling weight; the role of preliminary calibration experiments; the monitoring of experimental (...) environments for disturbing factors that affect both modeling features and theoretically unconstrained implementation details of robots. Various assumptions that are gradually introduced in the process of setting up and performing these robotic experiments become integral parts of the background hypotheses that are needed to bring experimental observations to bear on biological mechanism descriptions. (shrink)
This study looks at the lives of the most famous "wild children" of eighteenth-century Europe, showing how they open a window onto European ideas about the potential and perfectibility of mankind. Julia V. Douthwaite recounts reports of feral children such as the wild girl of Champagne (captured in 1731 and baptized as Marie-Angelique Leblanc), offering a fascinating glimpse into beliefs about the difference between man and beast and the means once used to civilize the uncivilized. A variety of educational (...) class='Hi'>experiments failed to tame these feral children by the standards of the day. After telling their stories, Douthwaite turns to literature that reflects on similar experiments to perfect human subjects. Her examples range from utopian schemes for progressive childrearing to philosophical tales of animated statues, from revolutionary theories of regenerated men to Gothic tales of scientists run amok. Encompassing thinkers such as Rousseau, Sade, Defoe, and Mary Shelley, Douthwaite shows how the Enlightenment conceived of mankind as an infinitely malleable entity, first with optimism, then with apprehension. Exposing the darker side of eighteenth-century thought, she demonstrates how advances in science gave rise to troubling ethical concerns, as parents, scientists, and politicians tried to perfect mankind with disastrous results. (shrink)
Chow's one-tailed null-hypothesis significance-test procedure, with its rationale based on the elimination of chance influences, is not appropriate for theory-corroboration experiments. Estimated effect sizes and their associated standard errors or confidence limits will always suffice.
In the social sciences we hardly can create laboratory conditions, we only can try to find out which kinds of experiments Nature has carried out. Knowledge about Nature's designs can be used to infer conditions for reliable predictions. This problem was explicitly dealt with in Haavelmo's (1944) discussion of autonomous relationships, Friedman's (1953) as-if methodology, and Simon's (1961) discussions of nearly-decomposable systems. All three accounts take Marshallian partitioning as starting point, however not with a sharp ceteris paribus razor but (...) with the blunt knife of negligibility assumptions. As will be shown, in each account reflection on which influences are negligible, for what phenomena and for how long, played a central role. (shrink)
Although provocative, the data reported in Henrich et al.'s target article suffer from limitations, including the fact that the “selfishness axiom” is not an interesting null hypothesis, and the intrinsic limitations of quasi-experimental designs, in which random assignment is impossible. True experiments, in the laboratory or in the field, will continue to be crucial for settling core issues associated with human economic behavior.
Bionic technologies connecting biological nervous systems to computer or robotic devices for therapeutic purposes have been recently claimed to provide novel experimental tools for the investigation of biological mechanisms. This claim is examined here by means of a methodological analysis of bionics-supported experimental inquiries on adaptive sensory-motor behaviours. Two broad classes of bionic systems (regarded here as hybrid simulations of the target biological system) are identified, which differ from each other according to whether a component of the biological target system (...) is replaced by an artificial component, or else a component of an artificial system is replaced by a biological component. The role of these hybrid systems in the modelling of adaptive sensory-motor biological behaviours is discussed with reference to bionics-supported experiments on the mechanisms of body stabilization in lampreys. Methodological problems emerging from these case studies often arise in computer-based and biorobotic simulations of biological behaviours too. Accordingly, the present analysis contributes to identifying a more general regulative methodological framework for the machine-based modelling of biological systems. (shrink)
Heyes argues that we need alternative experiments to study those animal abilities generally considered to involve “theory of mind.” The studies she proposes, however, have as many problems as those that she criticizes. Further interactions should exist among researchers examining these capacities before additional experiments are undertaken.
We describe an update to our visual search software for the Macintosh line of computers. The new software, VSearch Color, gives users access to the full-color capabilities of the Macintosh II line. One of the key features of the new software is its ability to treat graphics information separately from color information. This makes it easy to study color independently of form, to design experiments based on isoluminant stimuli, and to incorporate texture segregation, visual identification, number discrimination, adaptation, masking, (...) and spatial cuing into the basic visual search paradigm. (shrink)
My description of the cognitive processes involved in the discovery, development, and acceptance of the bacterial theory of ulcers might have left the impression that science is all in the mind (Thagard, forthcoming-b). But only part of the story of the bacterial theory of ulcers is psychological. This paper discusses the important role of physical interaction with the world by means of instruments and experiments, and the equally important role of social interactions among the medical researchers who developed the (...) theory. The main questions I want to answer are the following: 1. What instruments contributed to the development and acceptance of the new theory? 2. What kinds of experiments contributed to the development and acceptance of the new theory? 3. How did theorizing and experimentation interact in the development of new experiments and hypotheses? 4. How did social processes such as collaboration, communication, and consensus contribute to the development and widespread acceptance of the bacterial theory of ulcers? I conclude with a sketch of science as a complex system of interacting psychological, physical, and social processes. (shrink)
: In light of information uncovered about human radiation experiments conducted during the Cold War, an important charge for the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments was to assess the current state of protections for human research subjects. This assessment was designed to enhance the Committee's ability to make informed recommendations for the improvement of future policies and practices for the protection of research subjects. The Committee's examination of current protections revealed great improvement over those from the past, (...) yet some problems remain. Although the data collected by the Committee highlight specific areas in need of attention, the Committee's work should be viewed in part as the beginning of a series of ongoing assessments of the adequacy and effectiveness of the protections afforded to human subjects. (shrink)