Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment

Tamar Szabó Gendler

in Intuition, Imagination, and Philosophical Methodology

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199589760
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595486 | DOI:
Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment

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This chapter argues that thought experiments play a distinctive role in scientific inquiry. Reasoning about particular entities within the context of an imaginary scenario can lead to rationally justified conclusions that—given the same initial information—would not be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument. The bulk of the essay involves a careful reconstruction of one of the most famous thought experiments in the history of science—that by which Galileo is said to have refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavy bodies fall faster than lighter ones. But it also offers some more general remarks about scientific thought experiment as such, including a comparison of the author's views with those of James Robert Brown and John Norton.

Keywords: Galileo; scientific thought experiment; argument; imagination; James Robert Brown; John Norton

Chapter.  10123 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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