Gedanken experiment

I read the phrase gedanken experiment the other day, and though I knew from reading about Einstein as a kid that this means “thought experiment” I was stimulated to learn more about the word gedanken. Finding it was not in my Dictionary made me think about what I thought it meant—Not a bad thing to do.

Of course a Gedanken experiment is exactly the opposite of an experiment: it is armchair theorizing: Not much different, then, from making up some data. However, while a Gedanken experiment is not experiment, it does capture what is missing from definitions of science which focus on hypothesis testing: Science is Gedanken + experimentation: thinking, creativity, and conversations with oneself and others— disciplined and made practical by testing with data.


2 thoughts on “Gedanken experiment

  1. Since the brief essay “Did Darwin Goof?” that I had recently written and published was categorized by Triond and the website as “science of philosophy,” I decided to peruse the blogs on “Philosophy of Science.” In so doing, I stumbled on the words
    “Gedanken Experiment.” Neither being a scientist nor a philosopher, I opened the post to see what mystery would unfold and be revealed. Two words stopped me cold . . . “armchair theorizing.” I guess that’s what I employed when writing the essay, though not realizing it at the time. I can now boast that I conducted and reported on a Gedanken thought experiment to my wife’s amazement.

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