In­te­gra­ti­ve Bio­phi­lo­so­phy

Thought experiments as genuine instruments of (philosophical) research. The mediating role of thought experiments in science discourses using the debate of the violinist thought experiment in the abortion debate as an example.

PhD student: Rebecca Bachmann

E-mail address: rebecca.bachmann[at]uni-kassel[dot]de

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Dr. Kristian Köchy 

Funding: Promotionsstipendium der Universität Kassel (since october 2018)

Project description

Thought experiments are a popular instrument of philosophical research, but at the same time they are often criticized because their added value compared to classical arguments is unclear. Many defenders of the instrument therefore emphasize its role, for example, as a constructive means to strengthen a theory. The focus is thus on the argument – the scenario, i.e. what actually constitutes a thought experiment, is mostly neglected.

In my research project, I address this desideratum in the debate and plan to show that thought experiments are relevant in terms of theory formation, development, and manifestation precisely because of their scenario. This thesis can be plausibilized with the help of science researchers Fleck, Latour, and Kirby. They assume that scientific theories are established by first being recognized by experts in the same field, and then being communicated to the public. The recognition of the public in turn also influences the scientific discourse, among other things by giving stability to the theory. Thought experiments play a role here insofar as they can be used as mediating instruments to disseminate a theory between the different fields of experts and laypersons due to their illustrative character.

To demonstrate this function of thought experiments, I analyze Judith Jarvis Thomson's violinist thought experiment and how it is used in the abortion debate in both academic and popular contexts as a case study.

Selected publications

  • Bachmann (in appearance): A steady diet of strange, exotic, or downright bizarre examples. Gedankenexperimente als Vermittlungsinstrumente der praktischen Philosophie. In: Zeitschrift für praktische Philosophie.
  • Bachmann (2021): »We’ll never know if it’s magic or science.«. Zur Entstehung von und zum Umgang mit falscher Popularisierung in Videospielen am Beispiel von Life is Strange. In: Loading. Game Studies Interdisziplinär. Hrsg. von Tamara Bodden, Marvin Madeheim & Annegret Montag. Paderborn: Fink 2021. S. 165-181.
  • Bachmann (2020): Science fiction is what got me into the field. Elemente der Popkultur als Vermittlungsstrategien im Diskurs um künstliche Intelligenz. In: Von Menschen und Maschinen. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das Verhältnis von Gesellschaft und Technik in Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft. Hrsg. von Helen Ahner, Max Metzger & Mathis Nolte. Social Science Open Access Repository. S. 119-140.

Selected lectures

  • Bachmann (2019): Von Zombies, Cookies & Bewusstseinstransplantationen. Die Serie „Black Mirror“ als Gedankenexperiment des phänomenalen Bewusstseins. Vortrag und Workshop im Rahmen der Fachdidaktischen Tagung: Bielefelder Fachtag Philosophie. „Von Fledermäusen und Zombies. Probleme des phänomenalen Bewusstseins“. Bielefeld.