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Thought Experiments$
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Roy A. Sorensen

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780195129137

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/019512913X.001.0001

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Mach and Inner Cognitive Africa

Mach and Inner Cognitive Africa

(p.51) 3 Mach and Inner Cognitive Africa
Thought Experiments

Roy A. Sorensen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the views of Australian philosopher-physicist Ernst Mach, the earliest and most systematic writer on thought experiments (and, not coincidentally, mentor of the young Albert Einstein). It discusses Mach's response to the problem of informativeness. It then details the book's disagreements with Mach. It is argued that Mach's mistakes can be traced to his sensationalism and a one-sided diet of examples. His sensationalism led him to overemphasize the mentalistic aspects of thought experiment and to throw away tools needed to explain its genuinely a priori features. Perhaps because of this, Mach's attention gravitated toward thought experiments he could explain (natural science cases) and away from the recalcitrant normative examples (in aesthetics, ethics, logic, and mathematics). To get a complete account of thought experiments, we should reject sensationalism and consider how armchair inquiry works in general.

Keywords:   Ernst Mach, children, cognitive bargain hunters, informativeness, sensationalism

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