A thought experiment is when you have an idea and take that idea to its logical end through rules and parameters that already exist or develop as the thought experiment matures.

Mostly through conversation and the use of verbal experimentation and arguments.

The purpose of having thought experiments is to expand your abilities to think, innovate, find patterns, plan, and imagine. Having this ability will allow you to break free from the influences of others, understand things quicker, learn faster, and develop better plans.

For Example:

Fallacies (Common Sense) are a great example of Thought Experiments that are brought to their conclusion. Although these arguments themselves represent bad logic and unsound reasoning. How people came to the conclusions that these are fallacies is the essence of what a Thought Experiment is.

A deeper look at one of the fallacies and the thought experiment that created it:

Needling: simply attempting to make the other person angry, without trying to address the argument at hand. Sometimes this is a delaying tactic.

You are watching a political talk show. You realize that the talk show host isn’t actually presenting any counter arguments or evidence and is simply goading the politician to see if he can get a rise out of him. You begin to discuss with your friend about the tactic and he says that it is a viable argument technique where as you believe it’s not an argument at all, but just a tactic to disclaim someone whose beliefs you don’t believe in. You continue to talk it over until your friend agrees that it is a tactic and not an argument. Making it a fallacy because the logic and reasoning to think of it as such is bad. You then call the fallacy needling because you are trying to poke the other with verbal needles to frustrate and annoy.

For a look at more fallacies, check out this list. (A very good list to know for your next debate or negotiation as finding false logic is a lot easier than you’d think.)

Another Example:

Your friend has a great idea for a Television Show. You create the premise and the characters. You continue to develop it until the show takes on a mind of its own and the characters take such shape that you can no longer just make them do anything. Because the characters develop their own rules/personalities (as if out of nowhere) that if they were written to do an action out of character, people won’t believe it. Thus a thought experiment has been created with rules that guide where the show can go. Until it reaches its logical end of happy, sad, eventful, or uneventful ending.

Now that you understand the concept of a Thought Experiment… here is the nitty-gritty on how to create one.

Step #1: Throw out all your beliefs and biases to ensure the purity of your thought experiment.

This rule is important as any outside influence of your thought experiment can lead to fallacies and bad logic. This rule is less important for creative thought experiments as where the logical end goes is less based on reality and more based on one’s imagination.

Step #2: Decide to create rules for the Thought Experiment at the beginning or let them develop over time.

You can develop the rules for a thought experiment to be as outrageous to as realistic as possible. All depends on the end goal of the Thought Experiment.

Realistic Rules (Black)

1. Follows realities rules and order of operation

2. Follows Logic and Reason (No Fallacies)

3. No Biases or Assumptions

Creative Rules (White)

1. Follows a set of rules not dictated by material facts

2. Rules can develop laissez faire and become permanent as they develop

3. Assumptions can be used to build the Thought Experiment to places reality won’t allow without proven facts.

Combination Rules (Gray)

1. Follows a set of rules that are based in reality, but can change with current events.

2. Rules follow logic and reason, but includes the actions with a probability of low success so nothing is ruled out.

3. Assumptions are allowed, but must be proven throughout the thought experiment.

#3: Talk through your Thought Experiment

With the others in the Thought Experiment, talk through the thoughts you have or had. Ensuring to maintain the rules. Where the experimentation comes into play is having the idea be bounced, fleshed out, and redone to by many diverse people with different views, angles and experiences to meet the rules and logic of the thought experiment. The experimentation comes from the fact you don’t know where the thought process will go, what other rules will develop during the experiment, and the scenarios, scenes, or actors that develop.

#4: Take your Thought Experiments to their Logical End

An example on the creative side would be a story-line for a character. The more you flesh out the character and create a world around him, the easier it becomes to bring them to their logical end. Therefore a Tragic Character dies to redeem himself. A Happy Character wins the day. Or any combination of paths that the story may take. (Uses made-up rules and parameters to dictate the path of fictitious characters)

An example on the realistic side, is having a thought experiment on real life events and people. Such as finding the truth of the matter behind the actions of what others do, such as rivals, friends, and enemies. Finding the motives behind their actions or to build an idea of the inner-working of what’s really going on. (Uses real world facts to develop theories about the real world)

A great example of a Combination is making a plan off the real world. Because plans make a lot of assumptions about how the real world will work according to the plan, but more than likely has to change before the end. This combination of the realistic to the creative side of thought experiments allows you to build your thoughts and bring them to fruition even if they don’t come to reality in any shape or form.

Think well. Be well.

Author's Bio: 

Lucas Thomas has earned his clients thousands of dollars with only one white sheet of paper. He has been doing professional copy for the last four years. And officially started his Copy-writing and Internet Marketing business in May of 2011. In business, this has included all direct marketing pieces from brochures to sales letters. In academics, scholarships to proposals. In non-profits, grants to fundraisers. He has worked with multiple entrepreneurs, small companies, and non-profits across the World.