'How we know what would be the case if...' - On the Epistemology of Thought Experiments and Counterfactuals

(Project 3 of the DFG Forschergruppe FOR 1614 'What if? On the meaning, Epistemology, and Scientific Relevance of Counterfactual Claims and Thought Experiments") Although thought experiments are used as a source of justification in many disciplines, and especially in philosophy, they seem to be epistemologically suspicious for at least two reasons: Firstly, it is hard to understand how we could have any kind of knowledge about the non-actual scenarios considered in those experiments; secondly, it seems unclear in the case of many thought experiments what distinguished them from frivolous speculation. In this project, both of these problems will be inquired in a new way by showing that the knowledge which thought experiments can generate can be understood as a special case of the knowledge we can have of the truth of counterfactuals. The reduction of the epistemology of thought experiments to that of the evaluation of counterfactuals will help to explain which cognitive abilities are relevant in evaluating thought experiments, and how our knowledge of the actual world and our ability to simulate non-actual scenarios work together by doing so. The project focusses on thought experiments and counterfactual thinking in those disciplines which are represented in the 'Forschergruppe', i.e. Historiography, Biology, Literary Theory, and most importantly Philosophy.

Principal investigators
Rosefeldt, Tobias Prof. Dr. (Details) (Classical German Philosophy)
Dohrn, Daniel Harald Joachim PD Dr. phil. (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

DFG: Sachbeihilfe

Duration of project
Start date: 04/2012
End date: 05/2020

Daniel Dohrn
Im Erscheinen: Simulation and the Predictive Brain, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
2020 Counterfactual Conditionals. Orthodoxy and Its Challenges, erscheint bei Mimesis, Mailand.
2020. Should Special Sience Laws Be Written into the Semantics of Counterfactuals, Kairos 22, 87-108
DOI 10.2478/kjps-2019–0010
2019a. Counterfactuals vs. Conceivability as a Guide to Modal Knowledge, Philosophical Studies (online
first), https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-019-01386-x
2019b Counterfactuals and Non-Exceptionalism about Modal Knowledge, Erkenntnis (online first)
2019c. Modal Epistemology Made Concrete, Philosophical Studies 176, 2455-2475.
2018a. La fantaisie, est-elle le privilege des seuls poètes? –Moritz Schlick on a ‘Sinnkriterium’ for thought experiments, Croatian Journal of Philosophy 18, 87-101
2018b. Moral Sentimentalism in Counterfactual Contexts: Moral Properties are Response-Enabled, Philoso-phia 46, 69-82
2018c. Thought Experiments without Possible Worlds, Philosophical Studies 175, 363-384.
2017a. Nobody Bodily Knows Possibility, The Journal of Philosophy 114, 678-686.
2017b. Is There an Incremental Reading of Conditionals?, Australasian Philosophical Review 1:2, 173-178.
2017c. Presuppositional Anaphora is the Sobel Truth, in: Domaneschi, P., Pistoia Reda S., hg., Linguistic and Psycholinguistic Approaches on Implicatures and Presuppositions, Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan, 199-238.
2016. Fiction and Thought Experiment. A Case Study, Teorema 35, 185-199
2015. Egan and Agents: How Evidential Decision Theory Could Deal with Egan’s Dilemma, Synthese 192, 1883-1908
2014. Empirie, Expertise, Analyse: Der Fall Gettier, in: Grundmann, T., Horvath., J., hg., Die experimentelle Philosophie in der Diskussion, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 213-234.

Tobias Rosefeldt (Projektleiter)
2019a. Kant on the Epistemic Role of the Imagination. Synthese (online first)
2019b. Kant on Imagination and the Intuition of Time, in Pollok, K, Gentry, G., hg., The Imagination in Ger-man Idealism and Romanticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 48-65.
2018. Real possibility and relation to an object. Remarks on Kant's Modal Metaphysics. European Journal of Philosophy 26, 1148-1152
2017. Counting Things that Could Exist. The Philosophical Quarterly 67/ 266, 127–147

Last updated on 2022-09-09 at 01:08