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Thought experiments in current metaphilosophical debates

In Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach J. H. Fehige & James Robert Brown (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 406-424 (2018)

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  1. Thought Experiments in Philosophy.Soren Haggqvist - 1998 - Philosophical Review 107 (3):480.
    Philosophy and science employ abstract hypothetical scenarios- thought experiments - to illustrate, defend, and dispute theoretical claims. Since thought experiments furnish no new empirical observations, the method prompts two epistemological questions: whether anything may be learnt from the merely hypothetical, and, if so, how. Various sceptical arguments against the use of thought experiments in philosophy are discussed and criticized. The thesis that thought experiments in science provide a priori knowledge through non-sensory grasping of abstract entities is discussed and rejected. The (...)
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  • Does Conceivability Entail Possibility.David Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
    There is a long tradition in philosophy of using a priori methods to draw conclusions about what is possible and what is necessary, and often in turn to draw conclusions about matters of substantive metaphysics. Arguments like this typically have three steps: first an epistemic claim , from there to a modal claim , and from there to a metaphysical claim.
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  • Thought Experiment: On the Powers and Limits of Imaginary Cases.Tamar Szabo Gendler - 2000 - Routledge.
    This book offers a novel analysis of the widely-used but ill-understood technique of thought experiment. The author argues that the powers and limits of this methodology can be traced to the fact that when the contemplation of an imaginary scenario brings us to new knowledge, it does so by forcing us to make sense of exceptional cases.
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  • The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.David J. Chalmers - 1996 - Oxford University Press.
    The book is an extended study of the problem of consciousness. After setting up the problem, I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible , and that if one takes consciousness seriously, one has to go beyond a strict materialist framework. In the second half of the book, I move toward a positive theory of consciousness with fundamental laws linking the physical and the experiential in a systematic way. Finally, I use the ideas and arguments developed earlier to defend (...)
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  • The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    The second volume in the _Blackwell Brown Lectures in Philosophy_, this volume offers an original and provocative take on the nature and methodology of philosophy. Based on public lectures at Brown University, given by the pre-eminent philosopher, Timothy Williamson Rejects the ideology of the 'linguistic turn', the most distinctive trend of 20th century philosophy Explains the method of philosophy as a development from non-philosophical ways of thinking Suggests new ways of understanding what contemporary and past philosophers are doing.
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  • Gedankenexperimente in der Philosophie.Daniel Cohnitz - 2006 - Mentis.
    Wie ist es wohl, eine Fledermaus zu sein? Wäre ein rein physikalisches Duplikat von mir nur ein empfindungsloser Zombie? Muss man sich seinem Schicksal ergeben, wenn man sich unfreiwillig als lebensnotwendige Blutwaschanlage eines weltberühmten Violinisten wieder findet? Kann man sich wünschen, der König von China zu sein? Bin ich vielleicht nur ein Gehirn in einem Tank mit Nährflüssigkeit, das die Welt von einer Computersimulation vorgegaukelt bekommt? Worauf beziehen sich die Menschen auf der Zwillingserde mit ihrem Wort 'Wasser', wenn es bei (...)
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  • Rationalism and the Content of Intuitive Judgements.Anna-Sara Malmgren - 2011 - Mind 120 (478):263-327.
    It is commonly held that our intuitive judgements about imaginary problem cases are justified a priori, if and when they are justified at all. In this paper I defend this view — ‘rationalism’ — against a recent objection by Timothy Williamson. I argue that his objection fails on multiple grounds, but the reasons why it fails are instructive. Williamson argues from a claim about the semantics of intuitive judgements, to a claim about their psychological underpinnings, to the denial of rationalism. (...)
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  • Thought-Experiment Intuitions and Truth in Fiction.Jonathan Ichikawa & Benjamin Jarvis - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 142 (2):221 - 246.
    What sorts of things are the intuitions generated via thought experiment? Timothy Williamson has responded to naturalistic skeptics by arguing that thought-experiment intuitions are judgments of ordinary counterfactuals. On this view, the intuition is naturalistically innocuous, but it has a contingent content and could be known at best a posteriori. We suggest an alternative to Williamson's account, according to which we apprehend thought-experiment intuitions through our grasp on truth in fiction. On our view, intuitions like the Gettier intuition are necessarily (...)
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  • Thought Experiments and Possibilities.Frank Jackson - 2009 - Analysis 69 (1):100-109.
    1. Reflecting on possible cases can be very valuable in differing ways. Sometimes it makes clear a consequence of a theory, a consequence that then plays an important role in debates about the theory. Utilitarians who favour maximising average happiness confront utilitarians who favour maximising total happiness with possible cases where there are enormously many sentient beings whose lives are barely worth living. Sometimes reflecting on possible cases serves to clarify a doctrine. Classical versions of consequentialism value equity for its (...)
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  • Are Linguists Better Subjects?Jennifer Culbertson & Steven Gross - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):721-736.
    Who are the best subjects for judgment tasks intended to test grammatical hypotheses? Michael Devitt ( [2006a] , [2006b] ) argues, on the basis of a hypothesis concerning the psychology of such judgments, that linguists themselves are. We present empirical evidence suggesting that the relevant divide is not between linguists and non-linguists, but between subjects with and without minimally sufficient task-specific knowledge. In particular, we show that subjects with at least some minimal exposure to or knowledge of such tasks tend (...)
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  • From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis.Frank Jackson - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
    Frank Jackson champions the cause of conceptual analysis as central to philosophical inquiry. In recent years conceptual analysis has been undervalued and widely misunderstood, suggests Jackson. He argues that such analysis is mistakenly clouded in mystery, preventing a whole range of important questions from being productively addressed. He anchors his argument in discussions of specific philosophical issues, starting with the metaphysical doctrine of physicalism and moving on, via free will, meaning, personal identity, motion, and change, to ethics and the philosophy (...)
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  • Thought Experiments.Roy A. Sorensen - 1992 - Oxford University Press.
    Sorensen presents a general theory of thought experiments: what they are, how they work, what are their virtues and vices. On Sorensen's view, philosophy differs from science in degree, but not in kind. For this reason, he claims, it is possible to understand philosophical thought experiments by concentrating on their resemblance to scientific relatives. Lessons learned about scientific experimentation carry over to thought experiment, and vice versa. Sorensen also assesses the hazards and pseudo-hazards of thought experiments. Although he grants that (...)
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  • Whither Experimental Semantics?Michael Devitt - 2012 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 27 (1):5-36.
    The main goal of the paper is to propose a methodology for the theory of reference in which experiments feature prominently. These experiments should primarily test linguistic usage rather than the folk’s referential intuitions. The proposed methodology urges the use of: philosophers’ referential intuitions, both informally and, occasionally, scientifically gathered; the corpus, both informally and scientifically gathered; elicited production; and, occasionally,_ _ folk’s referential intuitions. The most novel part of this is and that is where most of the experimental work (...)
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  • Expertise and Intuitions About Reference.Edouard Machery - 2012 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 27 (1):37-54.
    Many philosophers hold that experts’ semantic intuitions are more reliable and provide better evidence than lay people’s intuitions—a thesis commonly called “the Expertise Defense.” Focusing on the intuitions about the reference of proper names, this article critically assesses the Expertise Defense.
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  • Experimental Semantics.Michael Devitt - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (2):418 - 435.
    In their delightfully provocative paper, “Semantics, Cross-Cultural Style,” Edouard Machery, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich (2004),[1] make several striking claims about theories of reference. First, they claim: (I) Philosophical views about reference “are assessed by consulting one’s intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations” (p. B1). This claim is prompted by their observations of the role of intuitions in Saul Kripke’s refutation of the descriptivist view of proper names in favor of a causal-historical view (1980). The (...)
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  • Are Thought Experiments Just What You Thought?John D. Norton - 1996 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):333 - 366.
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 26, pp. 333-66. 1996.
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  • The Laboratory of the Mind: Thought Experiments in the Natural Sciences.James Robert Brown - 1991 - Routledge.
    Newton's bucket, Einstein's elevator, Schrödinger's cat – these are some of the best-known examples of thought experiments in the natural sciences. But what function do these experiments perform? Are they really experiments at all? Can they help us gain a greater understanding of the natural world? How is it possible that we can learn new things just by thinking? In this revised and updated new edition of his classic text _The Laboratory of the Mind_, James Robert Brown continues to defend (...)
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  • Intuitions in Philosophy: A Minimal Defense.David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 171 (3):535-544.
    In Philosophy Without Intuitions, Herman Cappelen focuses on the metaphilosophical thesis he calls Centrality: contemporary analytic philosophers rely on intuitions as evidence for philosophical theories. Using linguistic and textual analysis, he argues that Centrality is false. He also suggests that because most philosophers accept Centrality, they have mistaken beliefs about their own methods.To put my own views on the table: I do not have a large theoretical stake in the status of intuitions, but unreflectively I find it fairly obvious that (...)
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  • Rational Imagination and Modal Knowledge.Jonathan Ichikawa & Benjamin Jarvis - 2012 - Noûs 46 (1):127 - 158.
    How do we know what's (metaphysically) possible and impossible? Arguments from Kripke and Putnam suggest that possibility is not merely a matter of (coherent) conceivability/imaginability. For example, we can coherently imagine that Hesperus and Phosphorus are distinct objects even though they are not possibly distinct. Despite this apparent problem, we suggest, nevertheless, that imagination plays an important role in an adequate modal epistemology. When we discover what is possible or what is impossible, we generally exploit important connections between what is (...)
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  • Replies to Ichikawa, Martin and Weinberg.Timothy Williamson - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (3):465-476.
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  • Knowing the Intuition and Knowing the Counterfactual.Jonathan Ichikawa - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (3):435 - 443.
    I criticize Timothy Williamson's characterization of thought experiments on which the central judgments are judgments of contingent counterfactuals. The fragility of these counterfactuals makes them too easily false, and too difficult to know.
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  • Intuition and Conscious Reasoning.Ole Koksvik - 2013 - Philosophical Quarterly 63 (253):709-715.
    This paper argues that, contrary to common opinion, intuition can result from conscious reasoning. It also discusses why this matters.
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  • How Deep is the Distinction Between A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge?Timothy Williamson - 2013 - In Albert Casullo & Joshua C. Thurow (eds.), The A Priori in Philosophy. Oxford University Press. pp. 291-312.
    The paper argues that, although a distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge (or justification) can be drawn, it is a superficial one, of little theoretical significance. The point is not that the distinction has borderline cases, for virtually all useful distinctions have such cases. Rather, it is argued by means of an example, the differences even between a clear case of a priori knowledge and a clear case of a posteriori knowledge may be superficial ones. In both cases, (...)
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  • Thought Experiments.Roy A. Sorensen - 1998 - Oup Usa.
    In this book, Sorensen presents the first general theory of the thought experiment. He analyses a wide variety of thought experiments, ranging from aesthetics to zoology, and explores what thought experiments are, how they work, and what their positive and negative aspects are. Sorensen also sets his theory within an evolutionary framework and integrates recent advances in experimental psychology and the history of science.
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  • Why Thought Experiments Do Not Transcend Empiricism.John D. Norton - 2002 - In Christopher Hitchcock (ed.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science. Blackwell. pp. 44-66.
    Thought experiments are ordinary argumentation disguised in a vivid pictorial or narrative form. This account of their nature will allow me to show that empiricism has nothing to fear from thought experiments. They perform no epistemic magic. In so far as they tell us about the world, thought experiments draw upon what we already know of it, either explicitly or tacitly; they then transform that knowledge by disguised argumentation. They can do nothing more epistemically than can argumentation. I defend my (...)
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  • Die Methode des Gedankenexperimen.Ulrich Kühne & Daniel Cohnitz - 2008 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 39 (1):161-165.
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  • Thought Experiments in Einstein's Work.John D. Norton - 1991 - In .
    Preface: This volume originated in a conference on "The Place of Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy" which was organized by us and held at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, April 18-20, 1986. The idea behind this conference was to encourage philosophers and scientists to talk to each other about the role of thought experiments in their various disciplines. These papers were either written for the conference, or were written after it by commentators and (...)
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  • Logic, Metalogic and Neutrality.Timothy Williamson - 2013 - Erkenntnis (S2):1-21.
    The paper is a critique of the widespread conception of logic as a neutral arbiter between metaphysical theories, one that makes no `substantive’ claims of its own (David Kaplan and John Etchemendy are two recent examples). A familiar observation is that virtually every putatively fundamental principle of logic has been challenged over the last century on broadly metaphysical grounds (however mistaken), with a consequent proliferation of alternative logics. However, this apparent contentiousness of logic is often treated as though it were (...)
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  • Die Methode des Gedankenexperiments.Ulrich Kühne - 2005 - Suhrkamp.
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  • Thought Experiments Since the Scientific Revolution.James Robert Brown - 1986 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 1 (1):1 – 15.
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