Thought experiments are a means of imaginative reasoning that lie at the heart of philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to the modern era, and they also play central roles in a range of fields, from physics to politics. The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments is an invaluable guide and reference source to this multifaceted subject. Comprising over 30 chapters by a team of international contributors, the Companion covers the following important areas: -/- · the history of thought experiments, from antiquity to (...) the trolley problem and quantum non-locality; -/- · thought experiments in the humanities, arts, and sciences, including ethics, physics, theology, biology, mathematics, economics, and politics; -/- · theories about the nature of thought experiments; -/- · new discussions concerning the impact of experimental philosophy, cross-cultural comparison studies, metaphilosophy, computer simulations, idealization, dialectics, cognitive science, the artistic nature of thought experiments, and metaphysical issues. -/- This broad ranging Companion goes backwards through history and sideways across disciplines. It also engages with philosophical perspectives from empiricism, rationalism, naturalism, skepticism, pluralism, contextualism, and neo-Kantianism to phenomenology. This volume will be valuable for anyone studying the methods of philosophy or any discipline that employs thought experiments, as well as anyone interested in the power and limits of the mind. (shrink)
Building on a previously published contextualization of Marco Buzzoni’s Neo- Kantian account of scientific thought-experiments, this paper examines the explanatory power of this account. It is argued that Buzzoni’s account suffers from a number of shortcomings. Einstein’s clock-in-the-box thought experiment facilitates the demonstration of these deficits. In the light of both the identified inadequacies of Buzzoni’s account and the long-standing history of Kantian approaches to thought experiments, this paper finally sketches an alternative Neo-Kantian account. This alternative utilizes Michael Friedman’s reading (...) of Kant’s a priori within a Kuhnian account of thought experiments along the lines of conceptual constructivism as anticipated by Georg Lichtenberg and further developed recently by Tamar Gendler. (shrink)
Philosophical debate about the nature and function of thought experiments would be impoverished without good historical sources. And while valuable work is being done on the history of thought experiments, a comprehensive discussion of the history of philosophical investigation into thought experiments is still absent in the literature (but see Kühne 2005; Moue et al. 2006). In what follows we take the first steps towards providing a more complete picture of the diverse attempts to shed light on thought experiments.The term (...) “thought experiment” made its first appearance about 200 years ago in 1811. The most prolific period in the history of the philosophical investigation into thought experiments is the current .. (shrink)
Marco Buzzoni has presented a Kantian account of thought experiments in science as a serious rival to the current empiricist and Platonic accounts. This paper takes the first steps of a comprehensive assessment of this account in order to further the more general discussion of the feasibility of a Kantian theory of scientific thought experiments. Such a discussion is overdue. To this effect the broader question is addressed as to what motivates a Kantian approach. Buzzoni's account and the assessment developed (...) in this paper are warranted by the fact that the history of philosophical inquiry into thought experiments is deeply interwoven with Kant's philosophy. This history will be depicted here for the first time in more comprehensive terms to contextualize Buzzoni's account in historical and systematic perspective. (shrink)
This volume situates itself within the context of the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field that is dedicated to the study of the complex interactions between science and religion. It presents an innovative approach insofar as it addresses the Eurocentrism that is still prevalent in this field. At the same time it reveals how science develops in the space that emerges between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’. The volume examines a range of themes central to the interaction between science and religion: ‘Eastern’ (...) thought within ‘Western’ science and religion and vice versa, and revisits thinkers who sought to integrate ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ thinking. It studies Zen Buddhism and its relation to psychotherapy, Islamic science, Vedantic science, atheism in India, and Darwinism, offering in turn new perspectives on a variety of approaches to nature. Part of the Science and Technology Studies series, this volume brings together original perspectives from major scholars from across disciplines and will be of great interest to scholars and students of science and technology studies, history of science, philosophy of science, religious studies, and sociology. (shrink)
An explorative contribution to the ongoing discussion of thought experiments. While endorsing the majority view that skepticism about thought experiments is not well justified, in what follows we attempt to show that there is a kind of “bodiliness” missing from current accounts of thought experiments. That is, we suggest a phenomenological addition to the literature. First, we contextualize our claim that the importance of the body in thought experiments has been widely underestimated. Then we discuss David Gooding's work, which contains (...) the only explicit recognition of the importance of the body to understanding thought experiments. Finally, we introduce a phenomenological perspective of the body, which will give us the opportunity to sketch the power and promise of a phenomenological approach to thought experiments. (shrink)
The ontological argument is one of the most intriguing lines of reasoning in Western thought. Leaving behind debates over the proper relation between science and religion, it makes a simple move from conceptual analysis to existence in order to prove the existence of god. The ontological argument will be reviewed against the background of the contemporary debate on thought experiments. Assuming that the ontological argument fails as a philosophical proof, I will argue that its move from concept to existence might (...) best be understood as a thought experiment of revealed theology (a theology based on revelation – unlike philosophical theology/natural theology). Viewed from this perspective it makes sense that Anselm of Canterbury offered his versions of the ontological argument in the form of a prayer, which, presupposing the existence of god, seems to run counter to a proof of god's existence. (shrink)
Abstract Thought experimentation is part of accepted scientific practice, and this makes it surprising that philosophers of science did not seriously engage with it for a very long time. The situation changed in the 1990s, resulting in a highly intriguing debate over thought experiments. Initially, the discussion focused mostly on thought experiments in physics, philosophy, and mathematics. Other disciplines have since become the subject of interest. Yet, nothing substantial has been said about the role of thought experiments in nonphilosophical theology. (...) This paper discusses the role of thought experiments in Christian theology in comparison to their role in quantum physics, as mentioned by John Polkinghorne in Quantum Physics and Theology. We first look briefly at the history of the inquiry into thought experiments and then at Polkinghorne's remarks about the role of thought experimentation in quantum physics and Christian eschatology. To determine the actual importance of thought experiments in Christian theology a number of new examples are introduced in a third step. In the light of these examples, in a fourth step, we address the question of what it is that explains the cognitive efficacy of thought experiments in quantum physics and Christian theology. (shrink)
This paper is about the remarkable explosion in the literature on thought experiments since the 1980s. It enters uncharted territory. The year 1986 is of particular interest: James R. Brown presents his Platonism about thought experiments for the first time in Dubrovnik, and in Pittsburgh John D. Norton shares his empiricist approach with participants in what was probably the 20th century’s very first major conference on thought experiments. It was the time when philosophy of science had taken a pluralistic turn, (...) and the paper develops the notion that this is a key factor in the outburst of discussions about thought experiments in the 1980s. (shrink)
Although modern societies have come to recognize diversity in human sexuality as simply part of nature, many Christian communities and thinkers still have considerable difficulties with related developments in politics, legislation, and science. In fact, homosexuality is a recurrent topic in the transdisciplinary encounter between Christianity and the sciences, an encounter that is otherwise rather “asexual.” I propose that the recent emergence of “Christianity and Science” as an academic field in its own right is an important part of the larger (...) context of the difficulties related to attempts to reconcile Christianity and a recognition of diversity in human sexuality as a norm. Through a critical discussion of arguments which are upheld most disturbingly on a global scale by the Roman Catholic Church and supported with much sophistry by important stakeholders of an influential stream in analytic philosophy of religion, this paper aims to contextualize and defend the legitimacy of the question why God would create homosexuals as such if it is true that every homosexual act is prohibited by God. While recently advanced nonheterosexist scientific models of sexuality in nature inform the discussion, I reject the simplistic view that religions suppress and the sciences liberate in matters sexual. (shrink)
This is an introduction to a special issue of Perspectives on Science, the outcome of a workshop entitled "Thought Experiments in Science: Four Blind Spots," held at the University of Toronto, March 23rd, 2012. The recent revival in philosophical study of thought experiments has been limited to fields like epistemology, science studies, and metaphilosophy. With this issue we hope to facilitate a discussion about how some other disciplinary perspectives might bear on the subject; specifically, the history of philosophy, literary studies, (...) phenomenology and cognitive science. (shrink)
Thought experiments are employed for a number of reasons and in many different disciplines. This paper explores the work of Novalis in relation to the method of thought experiments in theology, with a special focus on the encounter between Christianity and the science of his day. In a first step I revisit the ongoing philosophical discussion on thought experiments in order to highlight the lack of interest in the literary features of thought experiments. Step two is dedicated to a discussion (...) of the work of Novalis as far as his metaphysics of phantasy and imagination is concerned as it plays out in his romantic poetry. Building on the results of this discussion, in a third step I discuss the relationship (a) between thought experiments in theology and other disciplines, (b) between current discussions of thought experiments and previous periods of philosophical investigation into the ‘laboratory of the mind’, (c) between Christianity and science, and (d) between literary fiction and cognition. (shrink)
This paper critically examines the predominant arguments that have been proposed either in favour or against non-benefit medical research with human subjects incapable of informed consent. It is argued that none of the arguments succeeds, while acknowledging that such research is necessary.
In my contribution to this special issue, I draw attention to the topic of the imagination at the interface of modern science and Christian theology. The paper entertains in critical perspective the notion that language divides, while the imagination unites. While the paper is intended to be explorative, a clear thesis emerges: in its commitment to consilience, Christian theology is directed to the imagination under the pressure of the pluralizing effects of a reason that is constrained by language.
In this paper I raise awareness of a crucial blind spot in scholarship on the Christian-Jewish dialogue. The main argument of the paper is that a closer examination of the dialogue form is necessary in order to assess the tenability of Christian-Jewish dialogue. Despite the widespread talk and intensive scholarship about the Jewish-Christian dialogue two things remain unclear: what concept of dialogue is presupposed; what makes the dialogue form appropriate for the Christian-Jewish encounter. This paper discusses the possibility that the (...) use of the dialogue form is a means of theological imperialism. I both rule out this possibility and propose an argument to justify the tenability of Jewish-Christian dialogue that I defend against objections which follow from Richard Swinburne’s Christian philosophy of revelation. (shrink)
While the influential analytical philosopher Hilary Putnam has made significant contributions to philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and philosophy of science, he isn't generally regarded as a philosopher of religion or a theologian. Nonetheless, I argue that his work should be of great interest to philosophers of religion and theologians. Focusing on the relationship between science and religion, this paper explores the importance of Putnam's attempt to reconcile his anti-metaphysical stance and his commitment to a religious form of life (...) for theology. I first demonstrate why an anti-metaphysical stance and a commitment to Judaism can be deemed contradictory, and then characterize Putnam's anti-metaphysical stance as a modus vivendi to avoid both of what I call analytic and scientistic metaphysics. In a third step I offer my interpretation of Putnam's way of relating science and religion without metaphysics in the qualified sense, and subsequently spell out some important consequences of the emerging picture for theology. In my conclusion I give an account of Putnam as a transitional thinker, and draw a parallel between some of his work and Kierkegaard's “leap of faith”. (shrink)
A solicited response to Robert Larmer's defence of the supernaturalist model of miracles. I show why Larmer fails to make his claim plausible that there aren't any good theological reasons to turn away from the supernaturalist model of miracles.
This work is a contribution to analytic philosophy of sex. It deals with the scientific concept of the sexed human body by focusing in particular on the logical and the semantic implications of such a concept.
This book is an introduction to philosophy of sex. The history of philosophy of sex is depicted (from Plato to Herman Schmitz) to set up the background against which the philosophy of sex by Herman Schmitz is analyzed. This leads to the discussion of topics like masturbation, the ontology of the sexed human body, and same-sex marriage.
Furthering the dialogue with J. Wentzel van Huyssteen over his way of reconciling Christianity and science while reflecting on human uniqueness, I offer a philosophical analysis of the phenomenon of transsexuality. The focus of my analysis is the implications of transsexuality for the metaphysics of reductive naturalism. Envisioning a pluralistic ontology of the sexed human body, I propose to account for human sexuality within the general framework of normative pragmatism. The context of my reflections is a theology of sexual diversity, (...) which I believe van Huyssteen has good reasons to endorse. (shrink)
Transsexuality has been subject to careful reflections in many disciplines outside philosophy. I first contextualize my philosophical approach by relating to the existing scholarship on transsexuality. Focusing on matters of sexual identity, I then propose a characterization of what might be considered the philosophical dimension of transsexual identity. Paying particular attention to the propositional consciousness of transsexuals, I develop the main thesis that transsexuality helps philosophers of sex to forcefully establish the contingency of sexual identity in terms of the underlying (...) biology of the sexed human body. I eventually argue that sexual identity is a cluster concept, which is constituted by sex, gender, sexual practice and desire. In this sense the following argument against “foundationalism” in philosophy of sex emerges: none of the four aspects of sexual identity can function as basic, prior to any normative commitments regarding the nature of human sexuality. (shrink)