Judgements about Thought Experiments

Mind 127 (505):35-67 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Thought experiments invite us to evaluate philosophical theses by making judgements about hypothetical cases. When the judgements and the theses conflict, it is often the latter that are rejected. But what is the nature of the judgements such that they are able to play this role? I answer this question by arguing that typical judgements about thought experiments are in fact judgements of normal counterfactual sufficiency. I begin by focusing on Anna-Sara Malmgren’s defence of the claim that typical judgements about thought experiments are mere possibility judgements. This view is shown to fail for two closely related reasons: it cannot account for the incorrectness of certain misjudgements, and it cannot account for the inconsistency of certain pairs of conflicting judgements. This prompts a reconsideration of Timothy Williamson’s alternative proposal, according to which typical judgements about thought experiments are counterfactual in nature. I show that taking such judgements to concern what would normally hold in instances of the relevant hypothetical scenarios avoids the objections that have been pressed against this kind of view. I then consider some other potential objections, but argue that they provide no grounds for doubt.

Similar books and articles

Moral judgments and emotions: A less intimate relationship than recently claimed.Thomas Pölzler - 2015 - Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 35 (3):177-195.
VII-Internal and External Validity in Thought Experiments.James Wilson - 2016 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 116 (2):127-152.
Thought experiments in ethics.Georg Brun - 2017 - In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. Abingdon/New York: Routledge. pp. 195–210.
Kant on Truth-Aptness.Alberto Vanzo - 2012 - History and Philosophy of Logic 33 (2):109-126.
The Semantics of Aesthetic Judgements.James O. Young (ed.) - 2017 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Aesthetic judgements and motivation.Alfred Archer - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (6):1-22.
The wisdom of the pack.Neil Levy - 2006 - Philosophical Explorations 9 (1):99 – 103.
The concept of the aesthetic.Nick Zangwill - 1998 - European Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):78–93.


Added to PP

425 (#29,136)

6 months
59 (#28,444)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alexander Geddes
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Intuition.Joel Pust - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Are Gettier cases disturbing?Peter Hawke & Tom Schoonen - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (5):1503-1527.
How to Use Thought Experiments.Elijah Chudnoff - forthcoming - In Ernest Sosa, Matthias Steup, John Turri & Blake Roeber (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 3rd edition. Wiley-Blackwell.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
The structure of empirical knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

View all 49 references / Add more references