Volume 7, Issue 2, 2007
James Robert Brown
Modelling Intuitions and Thought Experiments
The first, critical part of the paper summarizes J. R. Brown’s Platonic view of thought experiments (TEs) and raises several questions. One of them concerns the initial, particular judgments in a TE. Since they seem to precede the general insight, Brown’s Platonic intuition, and not to derive from it, the question arises as to the nature of the initial particular judgment. The other question concerns the explanatory status of Brown’s epistemic Platonism. The second, constructive descriptive-explanatory part argues for an alternative, i.e. the view of TE as reasoning in, or with help of, mental models which can accommodate all the relevant data within a non-aprioristic framework (or, at worst, within a minimally “aprioristic”, nativist one). The last part turns to issues of justification and argues that the mental model proposal can account for justification of intuitional judgments and can also support the view of properly functioning intuition as an epistemic virtue, all within a more naturalist framework than the one endorsed by Brown.