The Place of Thought Experiments in Philosophy

Filip Tvrdý


Thought experiments are popular tools of argumentation in science and philosophy. The criticism of these experiments from naturalized and experimental philosophers has led to the formation of deflationary and minimalist approaches that weaken the epistemic power of thought experiments and reconcile them with empiricism. This paper aims to demonstrate that these attempts do not overcome the main problems encountered by thought experiments in philosophy. The limits of human rationality and imagination prevent experimenters from solving unrealistic scenarios in a reliable way. Thought experiments in philosophy are different from science because the real ones usually cannot be implemented and are not open to the possibility of empirical falsification. Moreover, they are based on defective analogies and they shift the burden of proof unfairly. The persuasive success of thought experiments is very low; therefore, they cannot contribute to the solution of philosophical problems. The paper concludes that the most common types of thought experiments should be removed from the set of philosophical methods.


epistemology; philosophy of science; thought experiments; eliminativism; argumentation

Full Text:

PDF (Czech)

Copyright (c) 2018 Teorie vědy / Theory of Science

TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: