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Probing Theoretical Statements with Thought Experiments

El Skaf, Rawad (2021) Probing Theoretical Statements with Thought Experiments. [Preprint]

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Many thought experiments (TEs) are used to probe theoretical statements. One crucial strategy for doing this, or so I will argue, is the following. A TE reveals an inconsistency in part of our previously held, sometimes empirically well-established, theoretical statements. A TEer or her critic then proposes a resolution in the form of a conjecture, a hypothesis that merits further investigation. To explore this characterisation of the epistemic function of such TEs, I clarify the nature of the inconsistencies revealed by TEs, and how TEs reveal and resolve them. I argue that this can be done without settling the question of which cognitive processes are involved in performing a TE; be they propositional or non-propositional. The upshot is that TEs’ reliability, like real experiments, is to be found, in part, in their replicability by the epistemic community, not in their cognitive underpinnings.

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Item Type: Preprint
El Skaf, Rawadrawadskaff@gmail.com0000-0002-5883-1072
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Synthese
Keywords: Thought Experiments in Physics; Inconsistency Revealers and Resolvers Function; Internal vs. External Inconsistency; Norton's Elimination Thesis; TEs' Common Structure
Subjects: General Issues > Thought Experiments
Depositing User: Dr. Rawad El Skaf
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2021 05:25
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2021 05:25
Item ID: 18646
Subjects: General Issues > Thought Experiments
Date: 2021

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