Advertisement

Thought Experiments at the Edge of Conceptual Breakdown

  • İlhan İnanEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

In this chapter, I first provide an historical introduction on what a thought experiment is by citing various popular examples from science and philosophy. I then propose that we should identify a simple thought experiment with a story/question pair that aims at testing a certain hypothesis whose question must be generalizable to a scientific or a philosophical question. Next I discuss the controversy concerning the divergence between our “intuitions” in answering such questions depending on our culture and how this has recently given rise to “experimental philosophy”. I then take up complex thought experiments. I argue that a thought experiment may have “negative heuristics” as it may help us reveal how our concepts may break down when applied to areas outside their ordinary domain.

Keywords

Intuitions Heuristics Thought Experiments Experimental Philosophy Concepts 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I presented some of the ideas in this chapter at Koç University in May 2017. I would like to thank the Philosophy Club, especially its President Selim Utku Öğüt, for the invitation and for being a great host. I am grateful to the audience for the lively discussion and to Kenneth R. Westphal, Erhan Demircioğlu, Zeynep Direk, and Zeynep Talay for their valuable feedback.

References

  1. Floridi, Luciano. 2013. What is a Philosophical Question? Metaphilosophy 44 (3): 195–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Hintikka, Jaakko. 1999. The Emperor’s New Intuitions. Journal of Philosophy 96 (3): 127–147.Google Scholar
  3. Hobbes, Thomas. 1655. De CorpereElements of Philosophy, New York: Abaris Books, 1981.Google Scholar
  4. İnan, İlhan. 2012. The Philosophy of Curiosity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Knight, Thomas S. 1967. Questions and Universals. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 27: 564–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kripke, Saul A. 1979. A Puzzle About Belief. In Meaning and Use, ed. A. Margalit, 239–283. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. ———. 1980. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kuhn, Thomas. 1977. The Essential Tension. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Kühne, Ulrich. 2005. Die Methode des Gedankenexperiments. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  10. Machery, Edouard. 2011. Thought Experiments and Philosophical Knowledge. Metaphilosophy 42 (3): 191–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Machery, E., R. Mallon, S. Nichols, and S.P. Stich. 2004. Semantics, Cross-Cultural Style. Cognition 92 (3): B1–B12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Miscevic, Nenad. 2007. Modelling Intuitions and Thought Experiments. Croatian Journal of Philosophy VII: 181–214.Google Scholar
  13. Nagel, Thomas. 1974. What is It Like to be a Bat? Philosophical Review 83 (4): 435–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nozick, Robert. 1999. Anarchy, State and Utopia (original published in 1974 by Basic Books) Reprint. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. Parfit, Derek. 1984. Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Plutarch (75 A.C.E.). 1966. Theseus. Translated by John Dryden. New York, NY: Biblo and Tannen.Google Scholar
  17. Quine, W.V. 1972. Review: Identify and Individuation by Milton K. Munitz. The Journal of Philosophy 69 (16): 488–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Salmon, Nathan. 1995. Being of Two Minds: Belief with Doubt. Nous 29 (1): 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schrödinger, Erwin. 1935. Die gegenwärtige Situation in der Quantenmechanik. Naturwissenschaften 23 (48): 807–812. English translation by John D. Trimmer. 1980. The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics: A Translation of Schrödinger’s ‘Cat Paradox Paper’. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 124 (5): 323–338.
  20. Sorensen, R.A. 1992. Thought Experiments. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Thomson, Judith Jarvis. 1985. The Trolley Problem. The Yale Law Journal 94 (6): 1395–1415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Thorpe, Lucas. 2016. Experimental Philosophy, Williamson’s Expertise Defense of Armchair Philosophy and the Value of the History of Philosophy. Yeditepe’de Felsefe: Method in Philosophy, 169–184.Google Scholar
  23. Uygur, Nermi. 1964. What is a Philosophical Question? Mind 73 (289): 64–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Weinberg, J.M., S. Nichols, and S. Stich. 2001. Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions. Philosophical Topics 29 (1–2): 429–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Williamson, Timothy. 2008. The Philosophy of Philosophy. London: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  26. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1961. Tractatus Logico-philosophicus. Translated by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Koç UniversityIstanbulTurkey

Personalised recommendations