The Evolution of Thought Experiments
Sorensen (Roy)
Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 8
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract1

  1. Having taken Kuhn's insight as far as I can, this chapter returns thought experiments2 to their unregimented state.
  2. My goal here is to define 'thought experiment3' and dig to its origin. I argue that thought experiments4 evolved from experiment through a process of attenuation. This builds inductive momentum behind the theme that thought experiments5 are experiments.
  3. My commitment to viewing them as limiting cases of experiment is solidified by defining thought experiments6 as experiments that purport to deal with their questions by contemplation of their design rather than by execution. But in the course of this analysis another reduction is endorsed: in addition to being experiments and paradoxes, thought experiments7 are stories.
  4. This brings one of the book's minor themes into prominence: many of the issues raised by thought experiments8 are prefigured in aesthetics and the logic of fiction.

  1. 'Experiment' Defined – 186
    … A. Stereotypical Features of Experiment – 186
    … B. A Cognitive Aim Is Essential to Experiment – 189
  2. Execution Is an Optional Part of Experiment – 190
  3. The Progression from Experiment to Thought Experiment9 – 192
  4. Classifying Thought Experiments10 by Grounds for Inaction – 197
    … A. Unimprovables – 197
    … B. Unaffordables – 199
    … C. Impossibles – 200
  5. The Immigration of the Supposition Operator – 202
  6. A Definition of 'Thought Experiment11' – 205
    … A. The Selectivity of the Definition – 206
    … B. Stereotypical Features of Thought Experiments12 – 208
  7. Verbal Disputes over 'Thought Experiment13' – 210
  8. Five Theses Recapitulated – 212


Photocopy of complete Book filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 17 (S2: Sm+)".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Sorensen (Roy) - Thought Experiments: Introduction".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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