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The Architecture of the ImaginationNew Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction$
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Shaun Nichols

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199275731

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199275731.001.0001

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Meta‐conceivability and Thought Experiments

Meta‐conceivability and Thought Experiments

(p.257) 13 Meta‐conceivability and Thought Experiments
The Architecture of the Imagination

Roy Sorensen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

A meta-conception is a hypothetical one. It answers a question by imagining someone (usually a more able conceiver) answering that question via an act of imagination. Thus, meta-conceptions stand to thought experiments as thought experiments stand to executed experiments. If conceivability entails possibility, then meta-conceiving entails possibility. Meta-conceptions would then work as well as thought experiments. But they do not work as well, giving fresh doubt about ‘Conceivability entails possibility’. Some of what passes for conceiving is really meta-conceiving, so these concerns affect modal epistemology. This chapter considers meta-conceptions as legitimate modes of inquiry but ranks them lower than thought experiments.

Keywords:   thought experiments, conceivability, possibility, meta-conception, hypotheticals, prosthetic perception, concept empiricism, future thinkers, fourth dimension, ideal observer

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