Article/Publication Details

How to Reconstruct a Thought Experiment

(Original title: How to Reconstruct a Thought Experiment)
Organon F, 2011, vol. 18, No 2, pp. 154-188.
File to download: PDF*
BibTex EndNote Tagged EndNote XML RIS

Document Statistics:

Number of visits: 2,652
Number of visits today: 1
Last visit: 14.07.2024 - 04:39
PDF downloads: 744


The paper is a contribution to the debate on the epistemological status of thought experiments. I deal with the epistemological uniqueness of experiments in the sense of their irreducibility to other sources of justification. In particular, I criticize an influential argument for the irreducibility of thought experiments to general arguments. First, I introduce the radical empiricist theory of eliminativism, which considers thought experiments to be rhetorically modified arguments, uninteresting from the epistemological point of view. Second, I present objections to the theory, focusing on the critique of eliminativism by Tamar Szabó Gendler based on the reconstruction of Galileo’s famous Pisa experiment. I show that her reconstruction is simplistic and that a more elaborate reconstruction is needed for an appropriate assess-ment of the epistemic power of general argument. I propose such a reconstruction and demonstrate that the general version of the Pisa experiment is epistemically equal to the particular one. Thus, from an epistemological perspective, Galileo’s thought experiment is reducible to a straightforward argument without particular premises.

*The article is subject to copyright.