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Philosophy as an academic discipline covers a wide range of topic areas and methods (see perspective on philosophy). However, as a method, one of its key approaches is that of the thought experiment (these are also sometimes referred to by their German name, Gedanken experiment). These involve trying to bring to light some conceptual or logical factor, by constructing an imaginary situation involving some manipulation of the topic under investigation. The logical consequences of this can then be explored. A classic example would be Searle's 'Chinese room', where the scenario constructed involves a person locked in a room, with Chinese ideograms passed through to him. Although he knows no Chinese, he has been given a set of rules telling him what ideograms to pass out, according to the different symbols which are input. Although the outputs may make sense to Chinese people (if the rules are appropriately constructed), the person in the room can't possibly be said to understand the Chinese terms.

This thought experiment therefore acts as a way to argue against the concept of 'strong artificial intelligence (AI)', e.g. the claim that if a computer was devised with programs that could talk and speak as effectively as a human, the computer would actually understand what was being said. We can see from this example, how philosophical methods can help us think through conceptual issues arising from psychology. Philosophical tools might also be used, for example, to help analyse the meaning of the term 'understands'. Careful analysis of the meaning of terms is another key tool of philosophy. There is a contrast with methods such as discourse analysis (DA), which is also concerned with analysis of language, but in a different way. DA tries to look at how the language people use acts to socially construct their worlds, and so analyses relatively large chunks of text. Philosophy typically takes a much more technical approach to language, focusing on the meaning of perhaps a single concept, in terms of its logical implications, relationships with other concepts etc. Traditional scholarship

This could refer to a number of different things, but in particular would include reviewing the literature to examine the theoretical and empirical contributions of other researchers. These are weighed against each other, looking for mutual support, inconsistencies etc. It might also involve finding new ways of making sense of existing ideas and/or data by synthesizing and integrating what were previously separate concepts/research.