Armchair physics and the method of cases

Samuel Schindler*, Pierre Saint-Germier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The method of cases, i.e. the informal elicitation of judgements in thought experiments for the purpose of philosophical theorising, has been much criticised in recent years. In this paper we point out that the method of cases is not peculiar to philosophy: it can also be found in physics, where it has made a more limited, but still valuable contribution to the probing and formulation of theories. The method of cases per se should therefore not be treated as intrinsically methodologically flawed. This paper has also a narrower goal: to show that when the analogy underlying the so-called ‘expertise defence’ is drawn between judgements in thought experiments in philosophy and in physics, several objections can be avoided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-354
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • judgements expertise defence
  • method of cases
  • Thought experiments


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