Article ID: CBB001421045

Explaining, Seeing, and Understanding in Thought Experiments (2014)


Brown, James Robert (Author)

Perspectives on Science
Volume: 22, no. 3
Issue: 3
Pages: 357-376

Publication Date: 2014
Edition Details: Article in a special issue, “Simulation, Visualization, and Scientific Understanding”
Language: English

In this paper, I analyze the relation between visualization and explanatory understanding in thought experiments. I discuss two thought experiments from special relativity. Both cases lead to a paradox, which can, however, be explained (away) as non-contradictory. The resolution in one of the two cases sheds light on the nature of thought experiments more generally by indicating what sort of thing it is that we see when we are observing events in the mind's own laboratory. And it will in turn shed light on the notions of explanation and understanding as they arise in thought experiments.

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Authors & Contributors
Stachel, John J.
Renn, Jürgen
Norton, John D.
Stachel, John J.
Howard, Don A.
Gregory, Frederick
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Physics in Perspective
Science and Education
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Rutgers University Press
Princeton University Press
Relativity, special
Philosophy of science
Relativity, general
Thought experiments
Einstein, Albert
Lorentz, Hendrik Antoon
Mach, Ernst
Weber, Heinrich
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Born, Max
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
21st century
Cracow (Poland)
Princeton University
Uniwersytet Lwowski (Lwów, Poland)

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