How to Use Thought Experiments

In Ernest Sosa, Matthias Steup, John Turri & Blake Roeber (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, 3rd edition. Wiley-Blackwell (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Thought experiments figure prominently in contemporary epistemology. Beyond that humdrum observation, controversy abounds. The aim of this paper is to make progress on two fronts. On the descriptive front, the aim is to illuminate what the practice of using thought experiments involves. On the normative front, the aim is to illuminate what the practice of using thought experiments should involve. Thought experiments result in judgments that are passed on to further philosophical reasoning. What are these judgments? What is the point of making them? What basis do we have for making them? A conception of thought experiments includes answers to these three questions. My thesis is that epistemologists should use thought experiments in accordance with a conception of them organized around the idea of explanation. My case for endorsing the thesis rests on the fruitfulness of the interventions in current debates about the content, point, and basis of thought experiment judgments that it suggests.
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Archival date: 2022-02-17
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