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A thought experiment is what often results when one uses thought as a cheap substitute for experiment. Thought experiment, like experiment, asks "WhatIf". Unlike experiment, it makes educated guesses instead of uneducated observations and produces wild speculations rather than results. Nevertheless, it has produced valuable theoretical work in the sciences, some of which has been confirmed by experiment.

Good thought experiments are not like that.

When Aristotle suggested that surely a heavier body must fall faster than a lighter body he was beginning a thought experiment, however he did not follow it to it's conclusion.

Much later Galileo completed the idea, he suggested we suppose a ligher body is attached to a heavier body by a cord. Now the lighter body must act as a drag on the heavier body and the system must fall slower that the heavy body alone. But the total system of the heavy and light body are heavier than either body alone so the system must fall faster than either alone. Clearly it cannot fall both faster and slower so all bodies must fall at the same rate. No one would believe that Aristotle could be wrong so he performed his famous experiments. The experiments were, however, a cheap substitute for the thought experiment and he had to fudge the data to get people to accept that Aristotle was wrong.

A good thought experiment separates the sensible from the insensible. Most thought experiments are not quite so pure, they take some premise, of some theory, based of experience or observation and ask if that is true, then what are the logical outcomes or experience. Indeed, these can be wild, and only experiment can then determine the truth. The value of the thought experiment, in this case is that is leads to a test or experiment that can validate or disprove the theory.

I stand corrected.

Well you discribed incomplete thought experiments, rationalizations, or .... I know there is a name for that sort of bogus argument you are describing and it is rampant.....

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