Organon F

Volume 31, February 2024, Issue 1, Pages 2–21

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article

A Systematic Account of the Argumentative Role of Thought Experiments

Michael Agerbo Mørch – Atle Ottesen Søvik


What is the role of thought experiments in scientific exploration? Can they provide us with new knowledge about the world? In a recent article, Lorenzo Sartori argues that thought experiments function like ordinary (material) experiments: Both material experiments and thought experiments are made in a specific context, which must then be extrapolated and generalized to say something true about the world. This article discusses and criticizes Sartori’s proposal. It suggests a new theoretical framework for understanding thought experiments, their argumentative role, and how they provide new knowledge about the world. The framework presented is a coherentist framework, where coherence has three aspects: consistency, cohesiveness, and comprehensiveness. The proposal is that the argumentative role of thought experiments is to demonstrate the presence or absence of consistency, cohesiveness, and comprehensiveness, thereby strengthening a theory, weakening a theory, or showing one theory to be better than another. This is the way thought experiments provides new knowledge about the world, since the way we learn something new about the world is by discovering which theories about the world are most coherent.


Coherence theory; Lorenzo Sartori; scientific epistemology; thought experiments.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Michael Agerbo Mørch


Fjellhaug International University College


Leifsgade 33.6, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark



Atle Ottesen Søvik


Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society


MF Norwegian School of Theology, P.O. Box 5144 Majorstua, 0302 Oslo, Norway


About this article


10 October 2023


10 November 2023


13 November 2023


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Mørch, M.A., Søvik, A.O. (2024). A Systematic Account of the Argumentative Role of Thought Experiments. Organon F31(1), 2–21.


Mørch, Michael Agerbo, Atle Ottesen Søvik. 2024. "A Systematic Account of the Argumentative Role of Thought Experiments." Organon F 31 (1): 2–21.


Mørch, M.A., Søvik, A.O. (2024). A Systematic Account of the Argumentative Role of Thought Experiments. Organon F, 31(1), pp. 2–21.

Copyright information

© Michael Agerbo Mørch and Atle Ottesen Søvik

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