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Why Thought Experiments do have a Life of Their Own: Defending the Autonomy of Thought Experimentation Method

  • N. K. Shinod
Article

Abstract

Thought experiments are one among the oldest and effectively employed tools of scientific reasoning. Hacking (Philos Sci 2:302–308, 1992) argues that thought experiments in contrast to real experiments do not have a life of their own. In this paper, I attempt to show that contrary to Hacking’s contentions, thought experiments do have a life of their own. The paper is divided into three main sections. In the first section, I review the reasons that Hacking sets out for believing in the life of experiments. Second section discusses Hacking’s characterization of thought experiments. The section also reviews his arguments for denying a life to thought experiments. In the third section, I argue for a life of thought experiments. In this section, I discuss the historical evolution of the EPR thought experiment and Galileo’s Free Falling Bodies in detail to show the untenability of Hacking’s arguments. The third section is followed by a conclusion that thought experiments do have a life of their own.

Keywords

Thought experiments Experiments The life of experiments Ian Hacking 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Prof. Prajit Basu, Department of Philosophy, University of Hyderabad, for correcting and commenting on the earlier drafts of this paper. I am also grateful to Dr. Prasantha Bandyopadhyay of the Montana State University for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper which helped me to shape the paper in its final form. Themeem T., my friend and fellow researcher in the Department of English, University of Hyderabad monitored my language. I am thankful to my friends in the Department of Philosophy, University of Hyderabad for patiently listening to the paper and voicing their comments. I am also indebted to the two anonymous reviewers of JICPR for helping me to improve the article.

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Copyright information

© ICPR 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyGovernment Brennen CollegeThalasseryIndia

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