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Introduction: The Emergence Of The Notion Of Thought Experiments

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Chapter Summary

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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