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Axiomathes

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 451–466 | Cite as

Norton and the Logic of Thought Experiments

  • Michael T. Stuart
Original Paper

Abstract

John D. Norton defends an empiricist epistemology of thought experiments, the central thesis of which is that thought experiments are nothing more than arguments. Philosophers have attempted to provide counterexamples to this claim, but they haven’t convinced Norton. I will point out a more fundamental reason for reformulation that criticizes Norton’s claim that a thought experiment is a good one when its underlying logical form possesses certain desirable properties. I argue that by Norton’s empiricist standards, no thought experiment is ever justified in any deep sense due to the properties of its logical form. Instead, empiricists should consider again the merits of evaluating thought experiments more like laboratory experiments, and less like arguments.

Keywords

Empiricism Experimentalism John D. Norton Material theory of induction Thought experiments 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank John D. Norton, Nancy Nersessian, Yiftach Fehige, James R. Brown, Marco Buzzoni, Joseph Berkovitz, Catherine Elgin, Sören Häggqvist, Elke Brendel, Geordie McComb and an anonymous referee for comments and discussion, as well as audiences at the University of Toronto, Bonn and Pittsburgh. This research was supported by an Ontario Graduate Research scholarship, the Germany/Europe fund from the University of Toronto, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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