The Laboratory of the Mind: Thought Experiments in the Natural Sciences

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Although most scientists and philosophers recognize the importance of thought experiments, The Laboratory of the Mind is the only full-length study of their nature and function. Beginning with Galileo's argument on falling bodies, James Robert Brown describes numerous examples of the most influential thought experiments from the history of science. He provides a thorough introduction to the subject, and makes the provocative claim that some thought experiments should be understood in the same way that platonists understand mathematical activity: as an intellectual grasp of an independently existing abstract realm. The book concludes with chapters on the nature of Einstein's work and on the interpretation of quantum mechanics which stand as a test of the author's central 8claims.
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Editorial Reviews

Starting with Galileo's argument on falling bodies, Brown describes many of the most influential examples. A pro-rationalist, anti- empiricist work. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"If thought experiments have extraordinary powers, then they need an extraordinary epistemology. This book is the only serious attempt to provide it."John Norton, University of Pittsburgh

Praise for the first edition:

"Cogent, lively, enthusiastic ... A wonderfully stimultating book, highly rcommended"

"I recommend this book to anybody interested in the philosophy of science...a fascinating compendium of these testaments to scientific genius."David Papineau, Times Higher Education Supplement

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Product Details

Meet the Author

James Robert Brown is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments vi

Preface (to the second edition) ix

1 Illustrations from the laboratory of the mind 1

2 The structure of thought experiments 32

3 Counter thought experiments 48

4 Mathematical thinking 67

5 Seeing the laws of nature 98

6 The development of inertial motion 125

7 Einstein's brand of verificationism 152

8 Quantum mechanics: a Platonic interpretation 176

Afterword 201

Notes 205

Bibliography 210

Index 223

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