Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of Thought Experiments
Article first published online: 23 JUN 2005
Volume 58, Issue 1, pages 89–108, March 2004
How to Cite
Brendel, E. (2004), Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of Thought Experiments. Dialectica, 58: 89–108. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2004.tb00293.x
- Issue published online: 23 JUN 2005
- Article first published online: 23 JUN 2005
I begin with an explication of “thought experiment”. I then clarify the role that intuitions play in thought experiments by addressing two important issues: (1) the informativeness of thought experiments and (2) the legitimacy of the method of thought experiments in philosophy and the natural sciences. I defend a naturalistic account of intuitions that provides a plausible explanation of the informativeness of thought experiments, which, in turn, allows thought experiments to be reconstructed as arguments. I also specify criteria for distinguishing bad “intuition pumps” from legitimate thought experiments. These criteria help us to avoid being seduced by the dangerous suggestive power of misleading intuitions.