Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

The Laboratory of Mind: Thought-Experiments on Nature and Society

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.10.00  Humanities  Philosophy   

Code Science Field
H001  Humanities  Philosophy 

Code Science Field
6.03  Humanities  Philosophy, Ethics and Religion 
Thought experiments, political thought experiments, moral thought experiments, intuitions, a priori, a posteriori, methodology of philosophy, methodology of science
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (12)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  51181  PhD Gorazd Andrejč  Philosophy  Researcher  2018 - 2019  75 
2.  04095  PhD Bojan Borstner  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2021  373 
3.  19077  PhD Janez Bregant  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2021  140 
4.  24775  PhD Smiljana Gartner  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2021  137 
5.  02120  PhD Božidar Kante  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2020  289 
6.  13466  PhD Friderik Klampfer  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2021  279 
7.  14608  PhD Rudi Kotnik  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2020  126 
8.  38226  PhD Alen Lipuš  Philosophy  Junior researcher  2015 - 2020  14 
9.  06070  PhD Nenad Miščević  Philosophy  Head  2015 - 2021  390 
10.  54836  Niko Šetar  Philosophy  Junior researcher  2020 - 2021  16 
11.  11554  PhD Danilo Šuster  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2021  262 
12.  15124  PhD Boris Vezjak  Philosophy  Researcher  2015 - 2021  740 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  2565  University of Maribor Faculty of Arts  Maribor  5089638050  33,188 
In philosophy and science one encounters many imaginative thought experiments (TEs) like for instance the story of the ring of Gyges in the second book of Plato’s Republic. Indeed, the whole of Republic might be viewed as an extended TE, in which the picture of ideal state is built “in the logos”, as Plato puts it. Such reasoning is often described as “armchair” reasoning, in contrast to laboratory or outdoor research. It is used in science (physics, see famous TEs by Einstein and Galileo, economics and so on). In philosophy, it is widely used in political philosophy, ethics, ontology, philosophy of mind and epistemology. Philosophers reflect on such knowledge, and they are joined in this by cognitive scientists. The cooperation between cognitive scientists and philosophers offers a chance for a unified, respectably scientific account of human knowledge. (Others, some »experimental philosophers« on the contrary argue that cognitive research will undermine philosophical thought-experimenting). The project will address the following issues:   Areas of thought experimenting: · Ethics and political philosophy · Ontology and philosophy of mind · Philosophy of language · Epistemology · TEs in literature and arts What is common and what is specific to each of them? Typical stages in thought experimenting and reflection (from understanding, through building a model, reaching a particular judgment-intuition, to “intuitive induction” with jump to general judgment and finally to 4 forms of reflective equilibrium (wide and narrow, each in its individual and collective version). History of thought experimenting, from Greeks to present days. TEs in science vs. TEs in philosophy: similarities and differences Accounts of TEs: overview of the existing ones, and an original proposal based on the idea of mental modeling and of specific competences that do the work/operative in thought experimenting. Existing accounts are divided into purely Platonic ones (James Robert Brown), conceptualist-apriorist (Ch. Peacocke), inferentialist (Norton), and ordinarist ones, which further subdivide into positive (T. Williamson, M. Devitt), and negative, skeptical ones (H. Cappellen, experimental philosophers). Interaction of TEs with other sources of knowledge, especially empirical-factual ones. The status of the results; are they a priori, a posteriori or mixed, with a clear structure? The last option will be developed and tentatively defended.
Significance for science
Understanding methods of science is very important for science itself, the same for philosophy. TEs have been prominent in scientific revolutions (Galileo, Einstein, quantum physicists), and play an important role in social sciences and political theory. Hence, a better understanding of them contributes to the advancement of research in all these areas. (For instance, it has been recently argued that TEs play a crucial role in economy, by authors like Julian Reiss, and others).
Significance for the country
The relevance and benefits of the proposed research not just for philosophy, but for any discipline that relies on thought-experiments, can hardly be overestimated. Methodological questions lie at the very foundation of each scientific discipline. Only if we get basic methodology right, can we expect our investigative tools to deliver accurate data which in turn inform plausible explanations and proper understandings of the phenomena studied. Philosophy has not so much preached as practiced blind reliance on intuitions generated by thought-experiments for too long. Skeptics have always been around, but only recently, after serious challenge from experimental psychology and philosophy, has mainstream philosophy become more conscious about methods employed. Our project is conciliatory – to identify and preserve what is best about the method of thought-experimentation.   Secondly, focusing on what is common to a variety of scientific disciplines, should facilitate future interdisciplinary research, and foster the sense of the unity of science that is often lost in the age of extreme specialization. And thought-experimenting crosses the growing and often lamented divide between natural sciences on the one hand and social sciences and humanities on the other.   An important aspect of virtue epistemology and virtue ethics, our previous research topic, was its social dimension, and the way it could contribute to the structuring of knowledge-based society, a society that both fosters, and directly depends on, epistemic virtues: inquisitness and curiosity, but also critical thinking, self-awareness and epistemic modesty. ‘Laboratory of the mind’ applies these epistemic ideals to philosophizing itself, which makes it a direct descendant of our previous inquiries. The previous research addressed important political virtues, such as active citizenship and toleration. The social implications of the proposal under consideration may not be immediately clear, but they are no less real. For vindicating thought-experimenting means restoring dignity to moral and political imagination which, in turn, helps us see beyond what is (and what often seems to be necessarily so) and into what might (have) be(en) instead. And entertaining, in our minds, possibilities in, and alternatives to, what is is not just a much needed intellectual excercise, but may turn out to be, in the light of enormous social and environmental predicaments that we are all facing today, also a live-saving skill.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2015, interim report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2015, interim report
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