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Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 18, Issue 1, 2018

On Thought Experiments

Daniel Dohrn
Pages 87-99

‘Mais la fantaisie est-elle un privilège des seuls poètes?’
Schlick on a ‘Sinn kriterium’ for Thought Experiments

Ever since the term ‘thought experiment’ was coined by Ørsted, philosophers have struggled with the question of how thought experiments manage to provide knowledge. Ernst Mach’s seminal contribution has eclipsed other approaches in the Austrian tradition. I discuss one of these neglected approaches. Faced with the challenge of how to reconcile his empiricist position with his use of thought experiments, Moritz Schlick proposed the following ‘Sinnkriterium’: a thought experiment is meaningful if it allows to answer a question under discussion by imagining the experiences that would confi rm that the thought experimental scenario is actual. I trace this view throughout three exemplary thought experiments of Schlick’s.