Thought Experiments at the Edge of Conceptual Breakdown

  • İlhan İnan


In this chapter, I first provide an historical introduction on what a thought experiment is by citing various popular examples from science and philosophy. I then propose that we should identify a simple thought experiment with a story/question pair that aims at testing a certain hypothesis whose question must be generalizable to a scientific or a philosophical question. Next I discuss the controversy concerning the divergence between our “intuitions” in answering such questions depending on our culture and how this has recently given rise to “experimental philosophy”. I then take up complex thought experiments. I argue that a thought experiment may have “negative heuristics” as it may help us reveal how our concepts may break down when applied to areas outside their ordinary domain.


Intuitions Heuristics Thought Experiments Experimental Philosophy Concepts 



I presented some of the ideas in this chapter at Koç University in May 2017. I would like to thank the Philosophy Club, especially its President Selim Utku Öğüt, for the invitation and for being a great host. I am grateful to the audience for the lively discussion and to Kenneth R. Westphal, Erhan Demircioğlu, Zeynep Direk, and Zeynep Talay for their valuable feedback.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Koç UniversityIstanbulTurkey

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