How can computer simulations produce new knowledge?

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (3):395-434 (2012)
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Abstract

It is often claimed that scientists can obtain new knowledge about nature by running computer simulations. How is this possible? I answer this question by arguing that computer simulations are arguments. This view parallels Norton’s argument view about thought experiments. I show that computer simulations can be reconstructed as arguments that fully capture the epistemic power of the simulations. Assuming the extended mind hypothesis, I furthermore argue that running the computer simulation is to execute the reconstructing argument. I discuss some objections and reject the view that computer simulations produce knowledge because they are experiments. I conclude by comparing thought experiments and computer simulations, assuming that both are arguments

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Claus Beisbart
University of Bern

References found in this work

The extended mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 2005 - Mind 114 (456):873 - 887.
Science in the age of computer simulation.Eric Winsberg - 2010 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics.Peter Galison (ed.) - 1997 - University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

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