Sharpening the tools of imagination

Michael T Stuart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thought experiments, models, diagrams, computer simulations, and metaphors can all be understood as tools of the imagination. While these devices are usually treated separately in philosophy of science, this paper provides a unified account according to which tools of the imagination are epistemically good insofar as they improve scientific imaginings. Improving scientific imagining is characterized in terms of epistemological consequences: more improvement means better consequences. A distinction is then drawn between tools being good in retrospect, at the time, and in general. In retrospect, tools are evaluated straightforwardly in terms of the quality of their consequences. At the cutting edge, tools are evaluated positively insofar as there is reason to believe that using them will have good consequences. Lastly, tools can be generally good, insofar as their use encourages the development of epistemic virtues, which are good because they have good epistemic consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Article number451
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

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