Thought Experiments as Model-Based Abductions

  • Selene Arfini
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 27)


In this paper we address the classical but still pending question regarding Thought Experiments: how can an imagined scenario bring new information or insight about the actual world? Our claim is that this general problem actually embraces two distinct questions: (a) how can the creation of a just imagined scenario become functional to either a scientific or a philosophical research? and (b) how can Thought Experiments hold a strong inferential power if their structures “do not seem to translate easily into standard forms of deduction or induction”? (Bishop in Philos Sci 66(4):534–541, 1999). We contend that, in order to answer both questions, we should consider the relation between the creation of the imagined scenario and the inferential power of Thought Experiments. Specifically, we will analyze Thought Experiments from an eco-cognitive point of view as goal-oriented objects, explaining their inferential power considering their generation as the result of abductive cognition and the construction of an imagined scenario as a process of scientific modeling. This will lead us to consider the creation of a Thought Experiment as a case of sophisticated model-based abduction.


Mental Model Actual World Thought Experiment Inferential Process Abductive Reasoning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Education and Economical-Quantitative SciencesUniversity of Chieti and PescaraChietiItaly

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