Theoretical Philosophy and Thought Experiments

I have been a Master of Social Sciences (abbreviated to VTM here in Finland) from the last summer. The journey of 10 years with a specific interest on thought experiments as a method for philosophy (and science) ended into a Finnish master’s thesis where I reported my findings on the subject matter. I can never say that I actually was finished with this issue though.

The topic was never easy, and it doesn’t cease to interest me these days either. I am eager to find out how the area is evolving further.

But the burden of heavy philosophical arguments and deep waters of pure mind games is now officially come to an end from my side. I don’t think that I am able to ever dive into that deep end of science any more or at least not as intensively as I have been. But as they say: never say never. There are definite links with design research and game research with this meta-philosophical topic…

If you are interested, the thesis is available here, but unfortunately I have to inform you that in order to really understand it, you need to master Finnish and possibly also basics of philosophy. As a good reference in English, you can always start on reading Sören Häggqvists dissertation from year 1996. I follow the same lines in many respects with him.

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Game researcher, lecturer, designer and a jamtivist.

7 thoughts on “Theoretical Philosophy and Thought Experiments”


    Remember the important thing is arrived, does not matter how long it takes you 😉 . Now to celebrate properly in this summer and get ready with whatever you want to do next! 😉

  2. Ok, here comes the summary in English:

    In this master’s thesis, I am exploring though experiments as a philosophical method. I will present the central theoretical approaches and examine two different thought experiments in details.

    The methodological discussion of thought experiments has been so far dealing with ontological, epistemological and normative questions. For instance, it can be said that ontologically thought experiments are experiments, mental models or procedures. Epistemologically thought experiments are interesting because of the problem of informativeness: if thought experiments are expected to bring about new knowledge, where does this information comes from? It can be argued that knowledge is either constructed in the process of building the theory, platonically with a help of pure reasoning or by exposing modal intuitions that are evolutionarily reliable.

    Normative theory of thought experiments is pursuing to form criteria for evaluating thought experiments. Based on the argumentative theory, thought experiments should be examined as arguments and thus according to general principles of logical reasoning. However, the argumentative approach seems to be too narrow to explain the role of the thought experiments in philosophical discussions. From one thought experiment, different kinds of arguments can be formed and with the help of them, the discussion can be led to surprising directions. In this thesis, I will present a framework, which will help to evaluate and develop thought experiments as processes. This approach will take the two-sided, argumentative and narrative, nature of thought experiments into account.

    Frank Jacksons Mary is a good example of diverse thought experiment process. During the more than twenty years of discussion concerning this particular thought experiment has invited many different interpretations and thus different theoretical standpoints of the philosophical theory in question, physicalism. Jacksons thought experiment has gained its “own life” and transforms easily from metaphysical problem into epistemological case.

    Counterexamples of Edmund Gettier seem to be a different case. Traditionally the Gettier examples have been seen as strong evidence against the definition of knowledge as justified true belief, but Gettiers thought experiment can also be examined critically. In the case of Gettier there is a possibility to find new approaches to epistemological discussion in the same manner than with Jacksons thought experiments.

    Keywords: Philosophy, metaphilosophy, philosophy of science, thought experiments, narrativity, argumentation

    (it is fast translation, so it might be slightly clumsy)

  3. And to emphasize to the readers of this blog, this thesis has nothing to do with games research, even though I am currently building connections between these topics in my head! 😀

  4. Thank you. Hope you prosper in your game research (cold weather is one of the great games of the universe)

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