What Use Are Real-World Cases for Philosophers?



In this paper I provide a defence of real-world cases as a legitimate part of the philosopher’s toolkit, in addition to the austere thought experiments and fictional cases that are more commonly used. I argue that thought experiments are effective because they streamline out extraneous details that might distract the philosopher from the principle under investigation. But in doing so they run the risk of inadvertently removing relevant information, thus preventing the philosopher from latching on to salient philosophical relationships. Fictional cases operate as extended thought experiments—removing what is hopefully irrelevant, but potentially at the cost of information that the philosopher needs. Cases from the real world are thus the only place that we can be sure that nothing important hasn’t been inadvertently lost, and so they are philosophically important.


How to Cite: Furman, K. (2021) “What Use Are Real-World Cases for Philosophers?”, Ergo. 7(0). doi: