Telling Stories in Science: Feyerabend and Thought Experiments

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The history of the philosophy of thought experiments (TEs) has touched on the work of Kuhn, Popper, Duhem, Mach, Lakatos, and other big names of the twentieth-century. But so far, almost nothing has been written about Paul Feyerabend. His most influential work was Against Method, eight chapters of which concern Galileo, with a significant focus on Galileo’s TEs. The later Feyerabend was interested in what might be called the epistemology of drama, including stories and myths. This article brings these aspects of Feyerabend’s work together in an attempt to present what might have been his considered views on scientific TEs. According to Feyerabend, TEs are a special kind of story that can help to demolish a dominant myth and instigate a new one through the use of propaganda to change our habits, by appealing to our sense of what is interesting, appealing, revealing, comprehensible, coherent, and surprising. I conclude by contrasting Feyerabend’s ideas with two currents in the modern debate on TEs: (1) the claim that the epistemology of TEs is just the epistemology of deductive or inductive arguments and (2) the claim that a complete epistemology of TEs must take into account the fact that TEs are a kind of narrative.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2021

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