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On Kant’s Critique Of Thought Experiments In Early Modern Philosophy

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Chapter Summary

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Thought experiments seem to have the proper home in philosophy, widely held to be a discipline dealing with concepts. But in philosophy, the examples are much less clear-cut. Paradigmatic thought experiments are Locke's on personal identity, Strawson's auditory world in the second chapter of Individuals, Putnam's Twin Earth, Jackson's Mary the colour scientist, or Searle's Chinese room. This chapter discusses the view, recently advocated by Timothy Williamson in the Philosophy of Philosophy, according to which a philosophical thought experiment is just a piece of ordinary counter factual reasoning. It then illustrates the proposal that a thought experiment involves a modal claim and an epistemological claim by giving some examples.

Keywords:philosophical thought experiments; Timothy Williamson

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This introductory gives an overview of the present book. The author begins by exploring the texts in which the origins of the scientific notion of thought experiments are usually said to be found. He then examines, in a more systematic perspective, the three characteristics of the broad category of thought experiments nowadays in circulation: thought experiments are counterfactual, they involve a concrete scenario and they have a well-delimited cognitive intention. His aim in exploring these characteristics is twofold. Firstly, it is to show that each of these characteristics, considered individually, may be taken in a more or less strict sense, and consequently to explain the proliferation of thought experiments. Secondly, it is to suggest that the recent debates on thought experiments might have arisen because these three characteristics are not easily conciliated when they are considered together. Finally, in a last section, the nine essays of this book are presented.

Keywords:cognitive intention; proliferation; thought experiments

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10.1163/ej.9789004201767.i-233.26
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