The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments

ISBN 9780415735087
Published July 12, 2017 by Routledge
582 Pages

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Book Description

Thought experiments are a means of imaginative reasoning that lie at the heart of philosophy, from the pre-Socratics to the modern era, and they also play central roles in a range of fields, from physics to politics. The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments is an invaluable guide and reference source to this multifaceted subject. Comprising over 30 chapters by a team of international contributors, the Companion covers the following important areas:

· the history of thought experiments, from antiquity to the trolley problem and quantum non-locality;

· thought experiments in the humanities, arts, and sciences, including ethics, physics, theology, biology, mathematics, economics, and politics;

· theories about the nature of thought experiments;

· new discussions concerning the impact of experimental philosophy, cross-cultural comparison studies, metaphilosophy, computer simulations, idealization, dialectics, cognitive science, the artistic nature of thought experiments, and metaphysical issues.

This broad ranging Companion goes backwards through history and sideways across disciplines. It also engages with philosophical perspectives from empiricism, rationalism, naturalism, skepticism, pluralism, contextualism, and neo-Kantianism to phenomenology. This volume will be valuable for anyone studying the methods of philosophy or any discipline that employs thought experiments, as well as anyone interested in the power and limits of the mind.

Table of Contents


  1. Thought Experiments: State of the Art – Michael T. Stuart, Yiftach Fehige and James Robert Brown
  2. Part One: Selected History of Thought Experiments

  3. The Triple Life of Ancient Thought Experiments – Katerina Ierodiakonou
  4. Thought Experiments in Plato – Alexander Becker
  5. Aristotle and Thought Experiments – Klaus Corcilius
  6. Experimental Thoughts on Thought Experiments in Medieval Islam – Jon McGinnis
  7. Galileo's Thought Experiments: Projective Participation and the Integration of Paradoxes – Paolo Palmieri
  8. Thought Experiments in Newton and Leibniz – Richard T. W. Arthur
  9. Kant, Hegel and Wittgenstein: Thought Experiments, Epistemology and Our Cognitive (In)Capacities – Kenneth R. Westphal
  10. Part Two: Thought Experiments and their Fields

  11. Thought Experiments in Political Philosophy – Nenad Miščević
  12. Thought Experiments in Economics – Margaret Schabas
  13. Theology and Thought Experiments – Yiftach Fehige
  14. Thought Experiments in Ethics – George Brun
  15. Happiest Thoughts: Great Thought Experiments of Modern Physics – Kent A. Peacock
  16. Thought Experiments in Biology – Guillaume Schlaepfer and Marcel Weber
  17. Thought Experiments in Mathematics – Irina Starikova and Marcus Giaquinto
  18. Part Three: Contemporary Philosophical Approaches to Thought Experiments

  19. The Argument View: Are Thought Experiments Mere Picturesque Arguments? – Elke Brendel
  20. Platonism and the A Priori in Thought Experiments – Thomas Grundmann
  21. Cognitive Science, Mental Modeling, and Thought Experiments – Nancy J. Nersessian
  22. Kantian Accounts of Thought Experiments – Marco Buzzoni
  23. Phenomenology and Thought Experiments: Thought Experiments as Anticipation Pumps – Harald A. Wiltsche
  24. Part Four: Issues, Challenges and Interactions

  25. Intuition and Its Critics – Stephen Stich and Kevin Tobia
  26. Thought Experiments and Experimental Philosophy – Kirk Ludwig
  27. Thought Experiments in Current Metaphilosophical Debates – Daniel Cohnitz and Sören Häggqvist
  28. Historicism and Cross-Culture Comparison – James W. McAllister
  29. A Dialectical Account of Thought Experiments – Jean-Yves Goffi and Sophie Roux
  30. The Worst Thought Experiment – John D. Norton
  31. Thought Experiments and Idealizations – Julian Reiss
  32. Thought Experiments and Simulation Experiments: Exploring Hypothetical Worlds – Johannes Lenhard
  33. Images and Imagination in Thought Experiments – Letitia Meynell
  34. Art and Thought Experiments – David Davies
  35. How Thought Experiments Increase Understanding – Michael T. Stuart
  36. On the Identity of Thought Experiments: Thought Experiments Rethought – Alisa Bokulich and Mélanie Frappier

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Michael T. Stuart is a fellow of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, London School of Economics, UK.

Yiftach Fehige is Associate Professor at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, Canada.

James Robert Brown is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, Canada.


"The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments is a valuable resource for anyone interested in thought experiments. It contains discussions of the identity and nature of thought experiments, their roles in different disciplines, the ways they figure in reasoning and representation, and their contributions to understanding."

Catherine Z. Elgin, Harvard University, USA

 "This companion is a faithful reflection of contemporary discussions over thought experiments, which are more rich and complex than can be indicated in this short review."

Carla Rita Palmerino, Metascience, 2019


"The Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments is an extensive reference work for the lover of thought experiments. Scientists, philosophers and historians get their money's worth due to the multitude of perspectives included in the collection."

James Robert Brown, The Reading Club of Everything, 2020