Functional Thought Experiments

Synthese 130 (3):379-387 (2002)

Abstract

The literature on thought experiments has been mainly concerned with thought experiments that are directed at a theory, be it in a constructive or a destructive manner. This has led some philosophers to argue that all thought experiments can be formulated as arguments. The aim of this paper is to draw attention to a type of thought experiment that is not directed at a theory, but fulfills a specific function within a theory. Such thought experiments are referred to as functional thought experiments, and they are routinely used in applied statistics. An example is given from frequentist statistics, where a thought experiment is required to establish the probability space. It is concluded that (a) not all thought experiments can be formulated as arguments, and (b) the role of thought experiments is more general and more important to scientific reasoning than has previously been recognized

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References found in this work

Consciousness Explained.Daniel C. Dennett - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (4):905-910.
The Taming of Chance.Ian Hacking - 1990 - Cambridge University Press.
Logic of Statistical Inference.Ian Hacking - 1965 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Thought Experiments.Roy A. Sorensen - 1992 - Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work

Thought Experiments.Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James R. Brown - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 25 (1):135-142.
Thought Experiments in Ethics.Georg Brun - 2017 - In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. Abingdon/New York: Routledge. pp. 195–210.
When Are Thought Experiments Poor Ones?Jeanne Peijnenburg & David Atkinson - 2003 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 34 (2):305-322.
How to Reconstruct a Thought Experiment.Marek Picha - 2011 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 18 (2):154-188.
Evaluating the Cognitive Success of Thought Experiments.Damián Islas Mondragón - 2017 - Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science 3:68-76.

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