PhilSci Archive

Probing Theoretical Statements with Thought Experiments

El Skaf, Rawad (2021) Probing Theoretical Statements with Thought Experiments. Synthese. ISSN 1573-0964

This is the latest version of this item.

ElSkaf2021_Article_ProbingTheoreticalStatementsWi.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview


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.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
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: 22 Feb 2021 22:26
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2021 22:26
Item ID: 18743
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Thought Experiments
Date: 2021
ISSN: 1573-0964

Available Versions of this Item

  • Probing Theoretical Statements with Thought Experiments. (deposited 22 Feb 2021 22:26) [Currently Displayed]

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item