Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 293–309 | Cite as

What is a Computer Simulation? A Review of a Passionate Debate

  • Nicole J. SaamEmail author


Where should computer simulations be located on the ‘usual methodological map’ (Galison 1996, 120) which distinguishes experiment from (mathematical) theory? Specifically, do simulations ultimately qualify as experiments or as thought experiments? Ever since Galison raised that question, a passionate debate has developed, pushing many issues to the forefront of discussions concerning the epistemology and methodology of computer simulation. This review article illuminates the positions in that debate, evaluates the discourse and gives an outlook on questions that have not yet been addressed.


(Digital) computer simulation Thought experiments Experiments Play 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany

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