SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Philosophy without thought experiments: A critique of the method of cases
(Epistemology, )

How do philosophers test, refute and validate their theories or analyses? From the 1960s on, it became more common to find philosophers presenting cases (or thought experiments) as a manner of refuting or supporting theories and analyses to such an extent that some of the most renowned arguments in different branches of analytic philosophy consist precisely of thought experiments. Think for example of Gettier's cases, Kripke's scenarios, Searle's Chinese room, Jackson's Mary the neuroscientist, Chalmers' zombies and Putnam's Twin Earth, among many others. Obviously, then, the use of cases with the intended purpose of refuting a theory or showing the incompleteness of the stipulated necessary and sufficient conditions of an analysis was and still is a dominant argumentative device in contemporary analytic philosophy. When philosophers use thought experiments as a manner of confuting or validating theories and analyses, they thereby assume that thought experiments are a belief-forming process that produces a high ratio of true to false beliefs. This is, they assume that thought experiments are truth-conducive. Thus, for instance, we believe that "knowledge" is not a justified true belief because of Gettier cases. In this paper I will argue that the method of cases is not truth-conducive. The argument that I will present to defend this claim is the following: 1)_If the method of cases is truth-conducive, then using it helps us get closer to correct theories. 2)_Using the method of cases we don't get close to correct theories. 3)_Therefore, the method of cases is not truth-conducive. Needless to say, premise (2) needs to be justified, and for so doing I will present three different arguments in section 4 of the paper. Before presenting these arguments, sections 2 and 3 will provide context and together set the stage for the arguments that are presented in section 4. Specifically, I will show in section 2 a crucial feature of philosophical theories and thought experiments. In section 3 I will comment upon the works of experimental philosophers and harness their studies to make my arguments more plausible. Finally, in section 5 I will round the paper off with the consequences of my critique.

Chair: Simon Graf
Time: 18:50-19:20, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: HS E.002

Santiago Vrech 
(Utrecht University, )



Testability and Meaning deco