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Camp, Elisabeth, , . Two Varieties of Literary Imagination: Metaphor, Fiction, and Thought Experiments
2009, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33 (1):107-130.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Recently, philosophers have discovered that they have a lot to learn from, or at least to ponder about, fiction. Many metaphysicians are attracted to fiction as a model for our talk about purported objects and properties, such as numbers, morality, and possible worlds, without embracing a robust Platonist ontology. In addition, a growing group of philosophers of mind are interested in the implications of our engagement with fiction for our understanding of the mind and emotions: If I don’t believe that Anna Karenina exists, can I really pity her, or hope or desire that she extricate herself from her tragic situation? And why is there no ‘morality fiction,’ analogous to science fiction? I suspect that philosophers have been especially comfortable thinking about fiction because it seems, at least prima facie, to employ the imagination in a way that conforms to a standard model of the mind. Specifically, contemporary philosophers tend to think of imagination as a form of mental pretense. Mental pretense can take two main forms: a cognitive attitude of supposing a set of propositions to be true (make-believe) or else an experiential state of imaging a scenario as if it were before one (imaging). Much of our pretense intertwines the cognitive and experiential modalities, of course. But both share a crucial common feature: all of one’s imaginative effort is invested in pretending that certain contents obtain. In this sense, we can understand imagination as the ‘offline’ simulation of actual beliefs and perceptions (and perhaps other attitudes as well), where we analyze these in the normal way, as states individuated by their attitude and representational content. While I share the burgeoning interest in fiction, I want to suggest that we also have a lot to learn from poetry, and in particular from poetic metaphor. I will argue..

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Franklin, L. R., , . Exploratory Experiments
2005, Philosophy of Science 72(5): 888-899.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: Philosophers of experiment have acknowledged that experiments are often more than mere hypothesis-tests, once thought to be an experiment’s exclusive calling. Drawing on examples from contemporary biology, I make an additional amendment to our understanding of experiment by examining the way that `wide’ instrumentation can, for reasons of efficiency, lead scientists away from traditional hypothesis-directed methods of experimentation and towards exploratory methods.

Comment: Good exploration of the role of experiments, challenging the idea that they are solely useful for testing clearly defined hypotheses. Uses many practical examples, but is very concise and clear. Suitable for undergraduate teaching in an examination of scientific methods in a philosophy of science course.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment
1998, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (3):397-424.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

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 concluusions that – given the same initial information – would not be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument.

Comment: This paper would be a good to put as further reading in a week focusing on thought experiments. Suitable for a third year module.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . Philosophical thought experiments, intuitions, and cognitive equilibrium
2007, French, Peter A. & Wettstein, Howard K. (eds). Philosophy and Empirical. Oxford: Blackwell. 68-89.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Summary: Drawing on literature from the dual-processing tradition in psychology, this paper tries to explain why contemplation of an imaginary particular may have cognitive and motivational effects that differ from those evoked by an abstract description of the same content, and hence, why thought experiments may be effective devices for conceptual reconfiguration. It suggests that by presenting content in a suitably concrete way, thought experiments recruit representational schemas that were otherwise inactive, thereby evoking responses that may run counter to those evoked by alternative presentations of relevantly similar content.

Comment: In this interesting paper, Gendler elucidates the role and nature of intuition in the light of current philosophical practice. It is a good material for teaching on philosophical intuitions and experimental philosophy.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , . Thought experiments rethought – and reperceived
2004, Philosophy of Science 71 (5):1152-1163.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: Contemplating imaginary scenarios that evoke certain sorts of quasi?sensory intuitions may bring us to new beliefs about contingent features of the natural world. These beliefs may be produced quasi?observationally; the presence of a mental image may play a crucial cognitive role in the formation of the belief in question. And this albeit fallible quasi?observational belief?forming mechanism may, in certain contexts, be sufficiently reliable to count as a source of justification. This sheds light on the central puzzle surrounding scientific thought experiment, which is how contemplation of an imaginary scenario can lead to new knowledge about contingent features of the natural world.

Comment: This is a good introductory reading to the philosophy of thought experiements. It would work well as a required reading on the topic.

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Spaulding, Shannon, , . Imagination Through Knowledge
2016, In Amy Kind & Peter Kung (eds.), Knowledge Through Imagination. Oxford University Press. pp. 207-226 (2016)
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: Imagination seems to play an epistemic role in philosophical and scientific thought experiments, mindreading, and ordinary practical deliberations insofar as it generates new knowledge of contingent facts about the world. However, it also seems that imagination is limited to creative generation of ideas. Sometimes we imagine fanciful ideas that depart freely from reality. The conjunction of these claims is what I call the puzzle of knowledge through imagination. This chapter aims to resolve this puzzle. I argue that imagination has an epistemic role to play, but it is limited to the context of discovery. Imagination generates ideas, but other cognitive capacities must be employed to evaluate these ideas in order for them to count as knowledge. Consideration of the Simulation Theory’s so-called ‘threat of collapse’ provides further evidence that imagination does not, on its own, yield new knowledge of contingent facts, and it suggests a way to supplement imagination in order to get such knowledge.

Comment: This is a relatively difficult paper, but it deals with the interesting topic of whether we can get knowledge through imagination. It would be suitable to suggest as a further reading for senior year undergraduate students.

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