Modal-Logical Reconstructions of Thought Experiments

R. A. Mulder*, F. A. Muller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Sorensen (Thought experiments, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992) has provided two modal-logical schemas to reconstruct the logical structure of two types of destructive thought experiments: the Necessity Refuter and the Possibility Refuter. The schemas consist of five propositions which Sorensen claims but does not prove to be inconsistent. We show that the five propositions, as presented by Sorensen, are not inconsistent, but by adding a premise (and a logical truth), we prove that the resulting sextet of premises is inconsistent. Häggqvist (Can J Philos 39(1):55–76, 2009) has provided a different modal-logical schema (Counterfactual Refuter), which is equivalent to four premises, again claimed to be inconsistent. We show that this schema also is not inconsistent, for similar reasons. Again, we add another premise to achieve inconsistency. The conclusion is that all three modal-logical reconstructions of the arguments that accompany thought experiments, two by Sorensen and one by Häggqvist, have now been made rigorously correct. This may inaugurate new avenues to respond to destructive thought experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jan 2023

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