Thought Experiments as Model-Based Abductions

In Lorenzo Magnani & Claudia Casadio (eds.), Model Based Reasoning in Science and Technology. Logical, Epistemological, and Cognitive Issues. Springer Verlag (2006)
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Abstract

In this paper we address the classical but still pending question regarding Thought Experiments: how can an imagined scenario bring new information or insight about the actual world? Our claim is that this general problem actually embraces two distinct questions: how can the creation of a just imagined scenario become functional to either a scientific or a philosophical research? and how can Thought Experiments hold a strong inferential power if their structures “do not seem to translate easily into standard forms of deduction or induction”? :534–541, 1999). We contend that, in order to answer both questions, we should consider the relation between the creation of the imagined scenario and the inferential power of Thought Experiments. Specifically, we will analyze Thought Experiments from an eco-cognitive point of view as goal-oriented objects, explaining their inferential power considering their generation as the result of abductive cognition and the construction of an imagined scenario as a process of scientific modeling. This will lead us to consider the creation of a Thought Experiment as a case of sophisticated model-based abduction.

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Selene Arfini
Universita' degli Studi di Pavia

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