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Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment

Tamar Szabó Gendler
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 49, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 397-424
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/688082
Page Count: 28
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Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment
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Abstract

By carefully examining one of the most famous thought experiments in the history of science--that by which Galileo is said to have refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones--I attempt to show that thought experiments play a distinctive role in scientific inquiry. Reasoning about particular entities within the context of an imaginary scenario can lead to rationally justified conclusions that--given the same initial information--would not be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument.

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