Author Topic: Stanford Encyclopedia of Thought Experiments  (Read 1532 times)


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Stanford Encyclopedia of Thought Experiments
« on: February 06, 2007, 07:20:34 pm »
Thought Experiments

First published Sat Dec 28, 1996; substantive revision Mon Feb 13, 2006
Thought experiments are devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things. We need only list a few of the well-known thought experiments to be reminded of their enormous influence and importance in the sciences: Newton's bucket, Maxwell's demon, Einstein's elevator, Heisenberg's gamma-ray microscope, Schrödinger's cat. The same can be said for their importance in philosophy. Much of ethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind is based firmly on the results of thought experiments. Again, a short list makes this evident: Thompson's violinist, Searle's Chinese room, Putnam's twin earth, Parfit's people who split like an amoeba. The 17th century saw some of its most brilliant practitioners in Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Leibniz. And in our own time, the creation of quantum mechanics and relativity are almost unthinkable without the crucial role played by thought experiments. Contemporary philosophy, even more than the sciences, would be severely impoverished without them.