Cognitive Science Colloqium
prof. Bipin Indurkhya (Jagiellonian University)
Thought experiments, models, and the heuristic power of metaphors in science
Abstract: Our goal here is to address the relationship between reality and scientific models, and the role of thought experiments and metaphors therein. We start with a critical examination of the methodologies of thought experiments, simulations and field experiments with respect to their epistemic status. We argue that thought experiments and simulations amount to within-model reasoning: the knowledge they yield is something that is implied by the assumptions of the model, though it may have a cognitive value to the scientist. Only field experiments, where the scientist directly interacts with the domain of investigation, result in new, added information about the environment. Then we apply the gestalt-projection model to articulate an interactive view of scientific experimentation, and show how it incorporates a model-dependent objectivity or realism. We elaborate on the cognitive role of thought experiments by noting that they allow us to consider a situation in alternate ways, thereby generating new ideas and hypotheses. We argue that, in this regard, thought experiments are closely related to metaphors, which provide a heuristic to increase our epistemic access to reality, and can be a source of creative insights.
Published by: Katarzyna Kijania-Placek