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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 40, Issue 3, September 2017

Jan Willem Wieland, Matthijs Endt
Pages 367-383
DOI: 10.5840/teachphil2017102076

Analysing Thought Experiments

Philosophers such as Gettier, Frankfurt, and Thomson are famous for their thought experiments. This makes one wonder: how did they invent their cases? Were they just lucky to devise a good case, or did they follow some basic rules that are available to all of us? In this paper, we argue for the latter answer by presenting a guidebook for analysing thought experiments. Our guidebook clearly specifies which factors should be included in a thought experiment, and which factors should be left out. This will help students to see through the fantastical elements of TEs, to learn the practice, and to check whether philosophers are doing things right. We illustrate our account in some detail using examples from Thomson’s thought experiments.