Thought Experiments
Sorensen (Roy)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Amazon Book Description

  1. In this book, Roy Sorensen presents the first general theory of the thought experiment1.
  2. He analyses a wide variety of thought experiments2, ranging from aesthetics to zoology, and explores what thought experiments3 are, how they work, and what their positive and negative aspects are.
  3. Sorensen also sets his theory within an evolutionary framework and integrates recent advances in experimental psychology and the history of science.

BOOK COMMENT:

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Thought Experiments: Introduction"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Introduction


Full Text1
  1. This book presents a general theory of thought experiments2: what they are; how they work; their virtues and vices. Since my aim is synoptic, a wide corpus of thought experiments3 has been incorporated. There is a special abundance of examples from ethics and the metaphysics of personal identity because thought experiments4 in these areas have recently attracted heavy commentary. But the emphasis is on variety, rather than quantity. Thus, the discussion ranges over thought experiments5 from many disparate fields, from aesthetics to zoology.
  2. Scientific thought experiments6 — especially those in physics — are the clear cases, so my primary goal is to establish true and interesting generalizations about them. Success here will radiate to my secondary goal of understanding philosophical thought experiments7. The reason for this optimism is subscription to a gradualistic metaphilosophy: philosophy differs from science in degree, not kind. Understand science, understand the parameters to be varied, and you understand philosophy.
  3. My basic means of reaching these two goals is to let the surface grammar of 'thought experiment8' be my guide and to pitch this book as part of the growing literature on experiment. Philosophers and historians of science have long followed the elder statesmen of science in concentrating on theory; experimentation has been dismissed as a rather straightforward matter of following directions and looking at gauges. Within the last ten years, the "just look and see" picture has been rejected in favor of one that assigns deeper roles for experimenters: creating and stabilizing phenomena; atheoretical exploration; and defining concepts by immersion in laboratory practice. Sympathy with this movement, coupled with the belief that thought experiments9 are experiments, led me to suspect a corresponding oversimplification of the thought experimenter10's role.
  4. The main theme of this book is that thought experiment11 is experiment (albeit a limiting case of it), so that the lessons learned about experimentation carry over to thought experiment12, and vice versa. For the symmetry of 'similar' underwrites a two-way trade; if thought experiments13 are surprisingly similar to experiments, then experiments are surprisingly similar to thought experiments14. In particular, experiments exploit many of the organizational effects associated with the products of armchair inquiry. Study of thought experiments15 draws attention to these neglected features of ordinary experiments; for when we explain the informativeness of thought experiment16, we cannot appeal to the inflow of fresh information. We are forced to look for ways that old information can be rendered more informative. (Consider how nineteenth-century investigations into animal behavior illuminated human psychology just because researchers had to make do with behavior; the distraction of introspection was removed.) Once these repackaging effects are detected with thought experiments17, they can be spotted in ordinary experiments. However, most of the illumination will flow from ordinary experiment to thought experiment18; I shall mainly use the familiar to explain the obscure.
  5. Chapter 1 ("Sorensen (Roy) - Our Most Curious Device") motivates the study of thought experiments19 — in broad strokes. Detailed structuring of the issues begins by making chapter 2 ("Sorensen (Roy) - Scepticism About Thought Experiments") a forum for sceptics. Thus, the technique looks discredited by the time sceptics yield the floor to Ernst Mach in chapter 3 ("Sorensen (Roy) - Mach and Inner Cognitive Africa"). This criticism is followed by a chapter ("Sorensen (Roy) - The Wonder of Armchair Inquiry") on armchair inquiry which will give us more breadth.
  6. Special use will be made of the cleansing model of armchair inquiry. It presents intellectual improvement as the shedding of intellectual vices, rather than the acquisition of virtues. Rationality is portrayed as analogous to health: just as health is the absence of disease, rationality is the absence of irrationalities. Thus, thought experiments20 make us more rational by purging us of bias, circularity, dogmatism, and other cognitive inefficiencies. All experiments work by raising the experimenter's status as an epistemic authority. Ordinary experiments confer authority mainly by improving the experimenter's perceptual abilities and opportunities. Thought experiments21 focus on nonperceptual improvements. But since an ordinary experiment can simultaneously provide perceptual and nonperceptual improvements, study of thought experiments22 can bring a neglected side of ordinary experiments into sharp relief.
  7. Inconsistency is the most general and best understood of cognitive flaws. This invites a reduction thesis: all of the irrationalities eliminated by thought experiment23 can be formulated as inconsistencies. If this thesis is true (and I think it is), we need only standardize the format of thought experiments24 in order to apply standard logic directly. So while granting that all of the models of armchair inquiry have something to offer, I close the chapter with the conclusion that the reductionist version of the cleansing model offers the best chance for immediate elaboration.
  8. Thomas Kuhn argued that thought experiments25 revealed a special kind of contradiction — a type of local incoherency. I try to salvage the insight driving Kuhn's heresy in chapter 5 ("Sorensen (Roy) - Kuhntradictions"). A paradox is a small set of individually plausible yet jointly inconsistent propositions. In chapter 6 ("Sorensen (Roy) - The Logical Structure of Thought Experiments") I extrapolate to the thesis that every thought experiment26 is reducible to such a set.
  9. The official role of thought experiment27 is to test modal28 consequences. The apparent narrowness of its function eases once we realize that there are many kinds of necessity: logical, physical, technological, moral. But the real flexibility of thought experiments29 wriggles up from the indirect uses of this official procedure. Just as jokes, metaphor, and politeness are conveyed through trick bounces off conventions governing literal conversation, thought experimenters30 use the standard format obliquely to transact a rich array of side tasks; concocting counterexamples to definitions and "laws," expanding the domain of theories, exhibiting modal31 fallacies, deriving astounding consequences, suggesting impossibility proofs.
  10. The paradox analysis is further deepened in chapter 7 ("Sorensen (Roy) - Conflict Vagueness and Precisification") by a special application to the genre of thought experiments32 that fascinated Kuhn. Having taken Kuhn's insight as far as I can, chapter 8 ("Sorensen (Roy) - The Evolution of Thought Experiments") returns thought experiments33 to their unregimented state. The suspicion that 'thought experiment34' is a systematically misleading expression is addressed in chapter 9 ("Sorensen (Roy) - Are Thought Experiments Experiments?").
  11. My final chapter ("Sorensen (Roy) - Fallacies and Antifallacies") assesses the hazards and pseudohazards of thought experiment35. If there are sides to be taken, I count myself among the friends of thought experiment36.


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Thought Experiments: Introduction")

Footnote 1: But with Chapter summaries excerpted to the relevant Chapters.



"Sorensen (Roy) - Our Most Curious Device"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 1


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Chapter 1 motivates the study of thought experiments2 — in broad strokes. Their power is displayed by assembling influential thought experiments3 from the history of science.
  2. I then lay out my plan to understand philosophical thought experiments4 by concentrating on their resemblance to scientific relatives.
  3. Points of difference between philosophical and scientific thought experiments5 give us a preview of obstacles that must be overcome in the course of the campaign.
  4. Naïve and sophisticated reservations about the philosophical cases are registered for the same purpose.

Sections
  1. The Instrument of Choice – 7
  2. Scientific Thought Experiments6 – 8
  3. The Bridge to Philosophical Thought Experiments7 – 11
  4. Analytic Philosophy's Commitment to Thought Experiment8 – 15


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Our Most Curious Device")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Scepticism About Thought Experiments"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 2


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Detailed structuring of the issues begins by making chapter 2 a forum for sceptics.
  2. Doubts about thought experiment2 are given their most damning expression to date.

Sections
  1. Introspection on the Sly? 21
    … A. The Internal Horizon – 21
    … B. Complaints About Introspection – 22
    … C. The Parallel Plight of Thought Experiments3 – 26
  2. A Repackaged Appeal to Ordinary Language? 41
    … A. How the Appeal to Ordinary Language Is Supposed to Work – 42
    … B. Strong Scepticism About the Appeal to Ordinary Language – 42
    … C. Moderate Scepticism About the Appeal to Ordinary Language – 43
    … D. Semantic Descent to Thought Experiments4 – 45
  3. Thought Experiments5 and the Dilemma of Informativeness – 46


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Scepticism About Thought Experiments")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Mach and Inner Cognitive Africa"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 3


Author’s Abstract1
  1. The technique (of thought experimentation)2 looks discredited by the time sceptics yield the floor to Ernst Mach in chapter 3. This Austrian philosopher-physicist was the earliest and most systematic writer on thought experiments3 (and, not coincidentally, mentor of the young Albert Einstein).
  2. Mach's views are of more than historical interest: they are insightful, fairly accurate, and fertile.
  3. My limited disagreements with Mach spring from his sensationalism — the view that everything worth saying is reducible to commentary on sense data.
  4. I argue that this extreme empiricism misled him into an overly narrow account of thought experiment4, ill-suited to thought experiments5 falling outside the natural sciences.

Sections
  1. Instinctive Knowledge – 51
  2. The Continuum of Cognitive Bargain Hunters – 58
  3. Mach's Response to the Problem of Informativeness – 61
  4. Appraisal of Mach – 63
    … A. What Mach Got Right – 63
    … B. What Mach Got Wrong – 67


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Mach and Inner Cognitive Africa")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - The Wonder of Armchair Inquiry"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 4


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Part of this chapter is deflationary; I trace a portion of our wonder about a priori enlightenment to modal2 fallacies.
  2. The positive part addresses curiosity about the mechanisms underlying armchair inquiry. Philosophers and psychologists have been influenced by several vague models of non-observational enlightenment. Mach said that thought experiments3 draw from a storehouse of unarticulated experience. This answer to the question of how it can be fruitful to sit and think is an empiricist version of Plato's doctrine of recollection, which pictures knowers as rememberers.
  3. In the 1960s, ordinary language philosophers defended their appeals to "what we would say" with a linguistic descendent of Plato's doctrine: knowledge of how to speak is transformed into knowledge that the rules for the term are such-and-such.
  4. The homuncular model, made respectable by the rise of cognitive psychology in the 1970s, pictures people as composed of subsystems ("little people") that act within the larger system much as personnel behave within a firm. The armchair investigator shifts information from one subsystem to another, so that facts familiar to one part are news to another part.
  5. This intrapersonal communication, pooling, and delegation of questions produces a better-informed person even though no fresh data has been gathered.
  6. A fourth model focuses on how information can be made more informative by rearranging it in ways that facilitate its storage, retrieval, and deployment in inference.

Sections
  1. The Pseudoanomaly – 76
    … A. Modal4 Gap Illusions – 77
    … B. How Thought Experiments5 Yield Modal6 Conclusions – 79
  2. Positive Theories of Armchair Inquiry – 88
    … A. The Recollection Model – 88
    … B. The Transformation Model – 92
    … C. The Homuncular Model – 95
    … D. The Rearrangement Model – 99
  3. The Cleansing Model – 104
    … A. How Thought Experiment7 Corrects Imbalances – 104
    … B. Theoretical and Practical Irrationality – 106
  4. An Eclectic View of the Mechanics of Thought Experiment8 – 109


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - The Wonder of Armchair Inquiry")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Kuhntradictions"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 5


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Thomas Kuhn's work on thought experiments2 gives me a running start. In "A Function for Thought Experiments3," he argued that they revealed a special kind of contradiction — a type of local incoherency.
  2. Standard logic has no room for this notion of a noninfectious, contingent contradiction. Hence, Kuhn's persuasive and insightful application of this feral concept startles conservatives like me.
  3. After showing why we should continue to side with standard logic, I try to salvage the insight driving Kuhn's heresy in chapter 5. The basic idea is that a group of tricky factors leads Kuhn to construe relative inconsistency as an exotic sort of absolute inconsistency.
  4. Crucial to the diagnosis is identification of the tricky thought experiments4 as paradoxes.

Sections
  1. Kuhn on the Received Opinion – 111
  2. Misfits – 112
  3. The Left Hand of Logic – 114
  4. Truth or Dare? 116
    … A. The Incoherence of Incoherent Concepts – 116
    … B. Violation of Logical Conservatism – 119
  5. Reconstruction of Kuhn's Error – 122
    … A. The Guts of Paradox – 122
    … B. Conflationary Factors – 123
    … C. The Phenomenology of Inconsistency – 127
    … D. Counteranalysis of Kuhn's Cases – 128
    … E. Taxonomic Prospects – 130


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Kuhntradictions")

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

Footnote 3: I have which are presumably the same paper.



"Sorensen (Roy) - The Logical Structure of Thought Experiments"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 6


Author’s Abstract1
  1. A paradox is a small set of individually plausible yet jointly inconsistent propositions.
  2. In chapter 6 I extrapolate to the thesis that every thought experiment2 is reducible to such a set. Indeed, I argue that they are all reducible to two highly specific forms of paradox—one targeting statements implying necessities, the other targeting statements implying possibilities.
  3. These two closely related sets are the standardized formats I craved in the discussion of the cleansing model. They are the molds into which raw thought experiments3 can be poured. They then enter the logician's mill.
  4. While in this admittedly artificial state, thought experiments4 can be systematically classified in accordance with which member of the paradox is slated for rejection. Both types of paradoxes have exactly five members, so the taxonomic system has a manageable scale.

Sections
  1. Attributing Thought Experiments5 – 132
  2. Thought Experiments6 as Alethic Refuters – 135
    … A. Necessity Refuters – 135
    … B. The Five Responses to the Quintet – 136
    … C. Summary of Necessity Refuters – 152
    … D. Possibility Refuters – 153
    … E. Summary of Possibility Refuters – 159
  3. The Identity Conditions for Thought Experiments7 – 160
  4. An Extension to Ordinary Experiments – 164
  5. The Big Picture – 165


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - The Logical Structure of Thought Experiments")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Conflict Vagueness and Precisification"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 7


Author’s Abstract1
  1. The paradox analysis is further deepened in chapter 7 by a special application to the genre of thought experiments2 that fascinated Kuhn.
  2. This special class is powered by conflict vagueness, a linguistic property that appears to make a normally well-behaved concept "come apart." Thought experiments3 that probe this nerve of indeterminacy are apt to force conceptual revision.
  3. Since conflict vagueness can be neatly dissected, I complete the chapter with a classification of the ways concepts change in response to this provocative family of thought experiments4.

Sections
  1. General Features of Vagueness – 167
  2. Dueling Definitions – 168
    … A. The Psychology of Conflict Vagueness – 168
    … B. How Conflict Vagueness Creates the Mirage of Local Incoherence – 170
    … C. Extensional Conflict Vagueness – 171
    … D. Intensional Conflict Vagueness – 172
  3. Application of the Quintet Schema – 174
  4. Conceptual Reform – 175
  5. Eliminative Reactions to Conflict Vagueness – 180
  6. Tolerating the Vagueness – 180
  7. Extending the Analysis – 181
  8. Sunder – Enlighten! 184


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Conflict Vagueness and Precisification")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - The Evolution of Thought Experiments"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 8


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.

Sections
  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


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - The Evolution of Thought Experiments")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Are Thought Experiments Experiments?"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 9


Author’s Abstract1
  1. The suspicion that 'thought experiment2' is a systematically misleading expression is addressed in chapter 9.
  2. Since I put so much weight on the accuracy of the surface grammar, I itemize how 'thought experiment3' is actually a systematically leading expression.
  3. This catalogue of hot tips raises a variety of issues ranging from how thought experiments4 differ from simulations to the ethics of fantasy.

Sections
  1. Systematically Misleading Expressions – 216
  2. Comparisons with Lookalikes – 218
    … A. Imaginary Experiments – 218
    … B. Fictional Experiments – 222
    … C. Mythical Experiments – 224
    … D. Models, Simulations, Reenactments – 225
  3. The Analogy with Ordinary Experiments – 228
    … A. The Taxonomic Point of the Analogy – 229
    … B. Points of Resemblance – 230
    … C. Points of Difference – 241
    … D. Bogus Points of Difference – 248
  4. A Lopsided Tally – 250


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Are Thought Experiments Experiments?")

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



"Sorensen (Roy) - Fallacies and Antifallacies"

Source: Thought Experiments, Roy A. Sorensen, 1992, Chapter 10


Author’s Abstract1
  1. My final chapter assesses the hazards and pseudohazards of thought experiment2.
  2. Although I grant that there are interesting ways in which the method leads us astray, I attack most scepticism about thought experiment3 as arbitrary.
  3. Once we apply standards that are customary for compasses, stethoscopes, and other testing devices, we find that thought experiments4 measure up. They should be used (as they generally are used) as part of a diversified portfolio of techniques. All of these devices are individually susceptible to abuse, fallacy, and error. But, happily, they provide a network of cross-checks that make for impressive collective reliability.
  4. So if there are sides to be taken, I count myself among the friends of thought experiment5.

Sections
  1. The Biological Baseline – 252
  2. Myths and Abuses – 254
  3. Fallacious Thought Experiments6 – 256
    … A. Missupposition – 257
    … B. Perspectival Illusions – 259
    … C. Framing Effects – 261
    … D. Biases of Thought Experiment7 – 261
    … E. Jumping the If / Ought Gap – 269
    … F. Overweighting Negative Thought Experiments8 – 271
    … G. The Additive Fallacy – 272
    … H. The Blindspot Fallacy – 273
  4. Antifallacies – 274
    … A. General Characterization of Antifallacies – 274
    … B. The Far Out Antifallacy – 277
    … C. Strangeness In, Strangeness Out? 284
    … D. The Voyeur Antifallacy – 285
    … E. The Kabuki Antifallacy – 286
  5. A Parting Comparison – 288


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




In-Page Footnotes ("Sorensen (Roy) - Fallacies and Antifallacies")

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



Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
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