Thought experiments are a means of imaginative reasoning that lie at the heart of philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to the modern era, and they also play central roles in a range of fields, from physics to politics. The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments is an invaluable guide and reference source to this multifaceted subject. Comprising over 30 chapters by a team of international contributors, the Companion covers the following important areas: -/- · the history of thought experiments, from antiquity to (...) the trolley problem and quantum non-locality; -/- · thought experiments in the humanities, arts, and sciences, including ethics, physics, theology, biology, mathematics, economics, and politics; -/- · theories about the nature of thought experiments; -/- · new discussions concerning the impact of experimental philosophy, cross-cultural comparison studies, metaphilosophy, computer simulations, idealization, dialectics, cognitive science, the artistic nature of thought experiments, and metaphysical issues. -/- This broad ranging Companion goes backwards through history and sideways across disciplines. It also engages with philosophical perspectives from empiricism, rationalism, naturalism, skepticism, pluralism, contextualism, and neo-Kantianism to phenomenology. This volume will be valuable for anyone studying the methods of philosophy or any discipline that employs thought experiments, as well as anyone interested in the power and limits of the mind. (shrink)
Building on a previously published contextualization of Marco Buzzoni’s Neo- Kantian account of scientific thought-experiments, this paper examines the explanatory power of this account. It is argued that Buzzoni’s account suffers from a number of shortcomings. Einstein’s clock-in-the-box thought experiment facilitates the demonstration of these deficits. In the light of both the identified inadequacies of Buzzoni’s account and the long-standing history of Kantian approaches to thought experiments, this paper finally sketches an alternative Neo-Kantian account. This alternative utilizes Michael Friedman’s reading (...) of Kant’s a priori within a Kuhnian account of thought experiments along the lines of conceptual constructivism as anticipated by Georg Lichtenberg and further developed recently by Tamar Gendler. (shrink)
Philosophical debate about the nature and function of thought experiments would be impoverished without good historical sources. And while valuable work is being done on the history of thought experiments, a comprehensive discussion of the history of philosophical investigation into thought experiments is still absent in the literature (but see Kühne 2005; Moue et al. 2006). In what follows we take the first steps towards providing a more complete picture of the diverse attempts to shed light on thought experiments.The term (...) “thought experiment” made its first appearance about 200 years ago in 1811. The most prolific period in the history of the philosophical investigation into thought experiments is the current .. (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)
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)
The ontological argument is one of the most intriguing lines of reasoning in Western thought. Leaving behind debates over the proper relation between science and religion, it makes a simple move from conceptual analysis to existence in order to prove the existence of god. The ontological argument will be reviewed against the background of the contemporary debate on thought experiments. Assuming that the ontological argument fails as a philosophical proof, I will argue that its move from concept to existence might (...) best be understood as a thought experiment of revealed theology (a theology based on revelation – unlike philosophical theology/natural theology). Viewed from this perspective it makes sense that Anselm of Canterbury offered his versions of the ontological argument in the form of a prayer, which, presupposing the existence of god, seems to run counter to a proof of god's existence. (shrink)
Abstract Thought experimentation is part of accepted scientific practice, and this makes it surprising that philosophers of science did not seriously engage with it for a very long time. The situation changed in the 1990s, resulting in a highly intriguing debate over thought experiments. Initially, the discussion focused mostly on thought experiments in physics, philosophy, and mathematics. Other disciplines have since become the subject of interest. Yet, nothing substantial has been said about the role of thought experiments in nonphilosophical theology. (...) This paper discusses the role of thought experiments in Christian theology in comparison to their role in quantum physics, as mentioned by John Polkinghorne in Quantum Physics and Theology. We first look briefly at the history of the inquiry into thought experiments and then at Polkinghorne's remarks about the role of thought experimentation in quantum physics and Christian eschatology. To determine the actual importance of thought experiments in Christian theology a number of new examples are introduced in a third step. In the light of these examples, in a fourth step, we address the question of what it is that explains the cognitive efficacy of thought experiments in quantum physics and Christian theology. (shrink)
Although modern societies have come to recognize diversity in human sexuality as simply part of nature, many Christian communities and thinkers still have considerable difficulties with related developments in politics, legislation, and science. In fact, homosexuality is a recurrent topic in the transdisciplinary encounter between Christianity and the sciences, an encounter that is otherwise rather “asexual.” I propose that the recent emergence of “Christianity and Science” as an academic field in its own right is an important part of the larger (...) context of the difficulties related to attempts to reconcile Christianity and a recognition of diversity in human sexuality as a norm. Through a critical discussion of arguments which are upheld most disturbingly on a global scale by the Roman Catholic Church and supported with much sophistry by important stakeholders of an influential stream in analytic philosophy of religion, this paper aims to contextualize and defend the legitimacy of the question why God would create homosexuals as such if it is true that every homosexual act is prohibited by God. While recently advanced nonheterosexist scientific models of sexuality in nature inform the discussion, I reject the simplistic view that religions suppress and the sciences liberate in matters sexual. (shrink)
Thought experiments are employed for a number of reasons and in many different disciplines. This paper explores the work of Novalis in relation to the method of thought experiments in theology, with a special focus on the encounter between Christianity and the science of his day. In a first step I revisit the ongoing philosophical discussion on thought experiments in order to highlight the lack of interest in the literary features of thought experiments. Step two is dedicated to a discussion (...) of the work of Novalis as far as his metaphysics of phantasy and imagination is concerned as it plays out in his romantic poetry. Building on the results of this discussion, in a third step I discuss the relationship (a) between thought experiments in theology and other disciplines, (b) between current discussions of thought experiments and previous periods of philosophical investigation into the ‘laboratory of the mind’, (c) between Christianity and science, and (d) between literary fiction and cognition. (shrink)
In this paper I raise awareness of a crucial blind spot in scholarship on the Christian-Jewish dialogue. The main argument of the paper is that a closer examination of the dialogue form is necessary in order to assess the tenability of Christian-Jewish dialogue. Despite the widespread talk and intensive scholarship about the Jewish-Christian dialogue two things remain unclear: what concept of dialogue is presupposed; what makes the dialogue form appropriate for the Christian-Jewish encounter. This paper discusses the possibility that the (...) use of the dialogue form is a means of theological imperialism. I both rule out this possibility and propose an argument to justify the tenability of Jewish-Christian dialogue that I defend against objections which follow from Richard Swinburne’s Christian philosophy of revelation. (shrink)
This work is a contribution to analytic philosophy of sex. It deals with the scientific concept of the sexed human body by focusing in particular on the logical and the semantic implications of such a concept.
This is an introduction to a special issue of Perspectives on Science, the outcome of a workshop entitled "Thought Experiments in Science: Four Blind Spots," held at the University of Toronto, March 23rd, 2012. The recent revival in philosophical study of thought experiments has been limited to fields like epistemology, science studies, and metaphilosophy. With this issue we hope to facilitate a discussion about how some other disciplinary perspectives might bear on the subject; specifically, the history of philosophy, literary studies, (...) phenomenology and cognitive science. (shrink)
A solicited response to Robert Larmer's defence of the supernaturalist model of miracles. I show why Larmer fails to make his claim plausible that there aren't any good theological reasons to turn away from the supernaturalist model of miracles.