The epistemology of thought experiments: A non-eliminativist, non-platonic account

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (3):309-329 (2013)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Several major breakthroughs in the history of physics have been prompted not by new empirical data but by thought experiments. James Robert Brown and John Norton have developed accounts of how thought experiments can yield such advances. Brown argues that knowledge gained via thought experiments demands a Platonic explanation; thought experiments for Brown are a window into the Platonic realm of the laws of nature. Norton argues that thought experiments are just cleverly disguised inductive or deductive arguments, so no new account of their epistemology is needed. In this paper, I argue that although we do not need to invoke any Platonic insight to explain thought experimentation, Norton’s eliminativist account fails to capture the unique epistemological importance of thought experiments qua thought experiments. I then present my own account, according to which thought experiments are a particular type of inductive inference that is uniquely suited to generate new breakthroughs

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,261

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

The A Priori Thesis.Sören Häggqvist - 2007 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1):47-61.
Intuitions in Science: Thought Experiments as Argument Pumps.Darrell Patrick Rowbottom - 2014 - In Anthony R. Booth & Darrell P. Rowbottom (eds.), Intuitions. Oxford University Press. pp. 119-134.
Why Empiricism Won't Work.James Robert Brown - 1992 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:271-279.
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.
Brown and Berkeley.Ksenija Puškarić - 2007 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (2):177-180.
On thought experiments as a priori science.Richard Arthur - 1999 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (3):215 – 229.

Analytics

Added to PP
2013-06-13

Downloads
130 (#141,523)

6 months
22 (#124,404)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Hayley Clatterbuck
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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.
Platonism and the Apriori in Thought Experiments.Thomas Grundmann - 2018 - In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. London: Routledge.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1973 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism.David Enoch - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Philosophy 31 (118):268-269.
Puppies, pigs, and people: Eating meat and marginal cases.Alastair Norcross - 2004 - Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):229–245.

View all 18 references / Add more references