Thought Experiments in Science, Philosophy, and Mathematics

Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):3-27 (2007)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Most disciplines make use of thought experiments, but physics and philosophy lead the pack with heavy dependence upon them. Often this is for conceptual clarification, but occasionally they provide real theoretical advances. In spite of their importance, however, thought experirnents have received rather little attention as a topic in their own right until recently. The situation has improved in the past few years, but a mere generation ago the entire published literature on thought experiments could have been mastered in a long weekend. Now the subject is beginning to flourish. Given the relative newness of the field, it might be useful to have several examples at one’s finger tips, so a number of great ones will be described. Attention will also be drawn outside physics and philosophy. In mathematics there is something analogous to thought experiments -- visual reasoning and picture proofs. I will look briefly at this class of thought experiments and try using them to make a case for possibly settling the continuum hypothesis. After this, I will return to thought experiments in the sciences and propose an account of how they work. Finally, I will end with a sketch of a topic I am currently working on, a kind of progress report which, I hope, will be an inducement to others.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,197

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Do Thought Experiments Have a Life of Their Own? Comments on James Brown, Nancy Nersessian and David Gooding.Ian Hacking - 1992 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:302 - 308.
Peeking into Plato’s Heaven.James Robert Brown - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (5):1126-1138.
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.
Poor Thought Experiments? A Comment on Peijnenburg and Atkinson.Daniel Cohnitz - 2006 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 37 (2):373 - 392.
Thought experiments.Roy A. Sorensen - 1992 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The logic of thought experiments.Martin Bunzl - 1996 - Synthese 106 (2):227 - 240.
Thought experiments and conceivability conditions.D. A. Anapolitanos - 1991 - In Tamara Horowitz & Gerald J. Massey (eds.), Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Rethinking thought experiments.Alisa Bokulich - 2001 - Perspectives on Science 9 (3):285-307.

Analytics

Added to PP
2011-01-09

Downloads
172 (#113,763)

6 months
6 (#529,161)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

James Robert Brown
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

Citations of this work

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.
A model for thought experiments.Sören Häggqvist - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (1):pp. 55-76.
A Neglected Chapter in the History of Philosophy of Mathematical Thought Experiments: Insights from Jean Piaget’s Reception of Edmond Goblot.Marco Buzzoni - 2021 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 11 (1):282-304.
A Neglected Chapter in the History of Philosophy of Mathematical Thought Experiments: Insights from Jean Piaget’s Reception of Edmond Goblot.Marco Buzzoni - 2021 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 11 (1):282-304.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references