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Thought Experiments Rethought—and Reperceived

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

Contemplating imaginary scenarios that evoke certain sorts of quasi-sensory intuitions may bring us to new beliefs about contingent features of the natural world. These beliefs may be produced quasi-observationally; the presence of a mental image may play a crucial cognitive role in the formation of the belief in question. And this albeit fallible quasi-observational belief-forming mechanism may, in certain contexts, be sufficiently reliable to count as a source of justification. This sheds light on the central puzzle surrounding scientific thought experiment, which is how contemplation of an imaginary scenario can lead to new knowledge about contingent features of the natural world.

Type
The Epistemology of thought Experiments
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 by the Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

For comments and discussion, I am grateful to John Hawthorne, Ishani Maitra, and Zoltán Gendler Szabó, and to my cosymposiasts and chair at the 2002 PSA Meetings: James Robert Brown, James McAllister, Nancy Nersessian, and John Norton.

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