The epistemology of thought experiments : first person versus third person approaches

In Peter A. French & Howard K. Wettstein (eds.), Midwest Studies in Philosophy. Blackwell. pp. 128-159 (2007)
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There has been a movement recently to bring to bear on the conduct of philosophical thought experiments 1 the empirical techniques of the social sciences, that is, to treat their conduct as in the nature of an anthropological investigation into the application conditions of the concepts of a group of subjects. This is to take a third person, in contrast to the traditional first person, approach to conceptual analysis. This has taken the form of conducting surveys about scenarios used in thought experiments.2 It has been called “experimental philosophy” by its practitioners and has been applied across a range of fields: the philosophy of language, the philosophy of action, the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics.3 The results of these surveys have been used to support conclusions about the application conditions of particular concepts of interest in philosophy. They have also been used to support skeptical claims about the traditional approach to conceptual analysis. The.
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