Journal Article

Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment

Tamar Szabó Gendler

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 49, issue 3, pages 397-424
Published in print September 1998 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 1998 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/49.3.397
Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment

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By carefully examining 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 heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones—I attempt to show 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 concluusions that—given the same initial information—would not be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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