Wittgenstein's Thought Experiments and Relativity Theory

In Newton Da Costa & Shyam Wuppuluri (eds.), Wittgensteinian: Looking at sciences from the viewpoint of Wittgenstein's philosophy. Berlin: Springer (forthcoming)

Carlo Penco
University of Genoa
In this paper, I discuss the similarity between Wittgenstein’s use of thought experiments and Relativity Theory. I begin with introducing Wittgenstein’s idea of “thought experiments” and a tentative classification of different kinds of thought experiments in Wittgenstein’s work. Then, after presenting a short recap of some remarks on the analogy between Wittgenstein’s point of view and Einstein’s, I suggest three analogies between the status of Wittgenstein’s mental experiments and Relativity theory: the topics of time dilation, the search for invariants, and the role of measuring tools in Special Relativity. This last point will help to better define Wittgenstein’s idea of description as the core of his philosophical enterprise.
Keywords Wittgenstein  Relativity Theory  Language Games  Philosophy of Language  Thought Experiments  Relativism  Hinge Epistemology
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