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 experiments to their unregimented state.
  2. My goal here is to define 'thought experiment' and dig to its origin. I argue that thought experiments evolved from experiment through a process of attenuation. This builds inductive momentum behind the theme that thought experiments are experiments.
  3. My commitment to viewing them as limiting cases of experiment is solidified by defining thought experiments 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 experiments are stories.
  4. This brings one of the book's minor themes into prominence: many of the issues raised by thought experiments 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 Experiment – 192
  4. Classifying Thought Experiments 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 Experiment' – 205
    … A. The Selectivity of the Definition – 206
    … B. Stereotypical Features of Thought Experiments – 208
  7. Verbal Disputes over 'Thought Experiment' – 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, 2017
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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