A Function for Actual Examples in Philosophy of Science

  • David L. Hull
Part of the Nijhoff International Philosophy Series book series (NIPS, volume 32)


In the early years of science, scientists emphasized, possibly exaggerated, the importance of actual experiments and observations in science in order to free themselves from what they took to be the sterile scholasticism of their predecessors. Their message was, instead of deciding that women have fewer ribs than men on the basis of a priori principles, count. However, thought experiments have also characterized science since its inception. The respective roles usually assigned to actual versus thought experiments is that actual experiments are used to decide truth while thoughts experiments test our conceptual boundaries, but as Kuhn (1964) has argued in his paper ‘A Function for Thought Experiments,’ matters of meaning and truth cannot be so clearly and conclusively distinguished. During the ongoing process of science, they are too closely intertwined. Only in retrospect, when a particular conceptual scheme is thought to be complete, can matters of truth and meaning be separated so neatly.


Thought Experiment Observation Statement Species Concept Philosophical Literature Species Category 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Hull
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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