The Wonder of Armchair Inquiry

Roy A. Sorensen

in Thought Experiments

Published in print February 1999 | ISBN: 9780195129137
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786138 | DOI:
 						The Wonder of Armchair Inquiry

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This chapter focuses on armchair inquiry. Thought experiment has the feel of clairvoyance, thus eliciting awe in some and suspicion in others. But the wonder of thought experiment is just a special case of our vague puzzlement about how a question could be answered by merely thinking. There is no mystery when investigators look, measure, and manipulate. Their answers come from the news borne by observation and experiment. But if you just ponder, then the information you have leaving the armchair is the same as the information you had when you sat down. It is argued that part of our wonder is based on a modal fallacy. The theories of armchair inquiry that promise answers to the legitimate portion of our wonder are surveyed. Finally, a cleansing model of rationality that sets the stage for a detailed analysis of how thought experiments work is developed.

Keywords: thought experiment; pseudoanomaly; modal gap illusions; observation; thinking

Chapter.  17449 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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