Thoughtful Films, Thoughtful Fictions: The Philosophical Terrain Between Illustrations and Thought Experiments

  • E. M. Dadlez


Many philosophers maintain that works of art, in particular films and novels, cannot function as thought experiments. Most who claim this make their case by setting the bar for what can count as a philosophical thought experiment very high. It is argued here not that these positions are necessarily mistaken, but that there is a large gray area that is seldom acknowledged between what counts as a philosophical thought experiment narrowly defined and what counts as “being used to illustrate a philosophical point,” where the fiction is imported into an already complete external argument. I contend that these are not the only alternatives available, that intuition pumps and variant case arguments provide better grounds for comparison than has been acknowledged, and that there are uses to which filmic illustrations in particular may be put that make distinctive and cognitive contributions of their own. In the course of making this case, it is stressed both that emotional response has clearly cognitive aspects and that many thought experiments with lower stakes rely on eliciting emotional response.


Thought experiment Film Cinema Philosophy Fiction Emotion Cognition Literature Intuition pump Intuitive probability Imagination 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. M. Dadlez
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Central OklahomaEdmondUSA

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