Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of Thought Experiments

Dialectica 58 (1):89-108 (2004)
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Abstract

I begin with an explication of “thought experiment”. I then clarify the role that intuitions play in thought experiments by addressing two important issues: the informativeness of thought experiments and 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.

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Elke Brendel
Universität Bonn

Citations of this work

Thought Experiments.Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James R. Brown - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 25 (1):135-142.
Thought Experiments: State of the Art.Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach Fehige & James Robert Brown - 2018 - In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. London: Routledge. pp. 1-28.
Does the Method of Cases Rest on a Mistake?Moti Mizrahi - 2014 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (2):183-197.
A Moderate Defence of the Use of Thought Experiments in Applied Ethics.Adrian Walsh - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (4):467-481.

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References found in this work

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1979 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 169 (2):221-222.
Are Thought Experiments Just What You Thought?John D. Norton - 1996 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):333 - 366.
Real people. Personal identity without thought experiments.Kathleen V. Wilkes - 1989 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 179 (4):632-633.
Personal and doxastic justification in epistemology.Mylan Engel - 1992 - Philosophical Studies 67 (2):133-150.

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