Thought experiment

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In philosophy, physics, and other fields, a thought experiment (from the German term Gedankenexperiment, coined by Ernst Mach) is an attempt to solve a problem using the power of human imagination. These experiments are used to attempt to understand something about the universe. Thought experiments have been used to pose questions in philosophy at least since Greek antiquity; a famous example is Plato's cave, but others pre-date Socrates. In physics and other sciences many famous thought experiments date from the nineteenth and especially the twentieth century, but examples can be found at least as early as Galileo.

Many thought experiments include apparent paradoxes about the known or accepted, that with time have led to the reformulation or precision of theories.

Famous thought experiments


Thought experiments are popular in physics and include:


The field of philosophy makes extensive use of thought experiments:



Books about thought experiments

  • Thought Experiments, Sorensen, 1992
  • Thought Experiments in Philosophy, Häggqvist, 1996
  • The Laboratory of the Mind, Brown, 1991
  • Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy, Horowitz&Massey (eds.), 1991
  • Thought Experiment: on the Powers and Limits of Imaginary Cases, Gendler, 2000

External links

de:Gedankenexperiment et:Mõtteline eksperiment es:Experimento mental fr:Expérience de pensée he:ניסוי מחשבתי nl:Gedachte-experiment ja:思考実験 sl:Miselni preskus