, Volume 169, Issue 3, pp 483–496 | Cite as

Does matter really matter? Computer simulations, experiments, and materiality



A number of recent discussions comparing computer simulation and traditional experimentation have focused on the significance of “materiality.” I challenge several claims emerging from this work and suggest that computer simulation studies are material experiments in a straightforward sense. After discussing some of the implications of this material status for the epistemology of computer simulation, I consider the extent to which materiality (in a particular sense) is important when it comes to making justified inferences about target systems on the basis of experimental results.


Computer simulation Experiment Models Materiality 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Callender C., Cohen J. (2006) There is no special problem of scientific representation. Theoria 55: 67–85Google Scholar
  2. Cressman G. (1996) The origin and rise of numerical weather prediction. In: Fleming J.R. (eds) Historical essays on meteorology 1919–1995.. American Meteorological Society, Boston, pp 21–39Google Scholar
  3. Dowling D. (1999) Experimenting on theories. Science in Context 12(2): 261–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Galison P. (1997) Image and logic. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Guala F. (2002) Models, simulations, and experiments. In: Magnani L., Nersessian N. (eds) Model-based reasoning: Science, technology, values.. Kluwer, New York, pp 59–74Google Scholar
  6. Guala F. (2005) The methodology of experimental economics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Hacking I. (1983) Representing and intervening. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Hartmann S. (1996) The world as a process. In: Hegselmann R., Troitzsch K., Mueller U. (eds) Modelling and simulation in the social sciences from the philosophy of science point of view. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 77–100Google Scholar
  9. Humphreys P. (1994) Numerical experimentation. In: Humphreys P. (eds) Patrick Suppes: Scientific philosopher Vol. 2. Kluwer, Boston, pp 103–121Google Scholar
  10. Keller E.F. (2003) Models, simulation, and ‘computer experiments’. In: Radder H. (eds) The philosophy of scientific experimentation. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, pp 198–215Google Scholar
  11. Morgan M. (2002) Model experiments and models in experiments. In: Magnani L., Nersessian N. (eds) Model-based reasoning: Science, technology, values. Kluwer, New York, pp 41–58Google Scholar
  12. Morgan, M. (2003). Experiments without material intervention: Model experiments, virtual experiments and virtually experiments. In H. Radder (Ed.), The philosophy of scientific experimentation (pp. 216–235). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  13. Morgan M. (2005) Experiments versus models: New phenomena, inference, and surprise. Journal of Economic Methodology 12(2): 317–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nebeker F. (1995) Calculating the weather: Meteorology in the 20th century. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Norton S., Suppe F. (2001) Why atmospheric modeling is good science. In: Miller C., Edwards P.N. (eds) Changing the atmosphere: Expert knowledge and environmental governance. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 67–105Google Scholar
  16. Oberkampf W., Trucano T., Hirsch C. (2004) Verification, validation, and predictive capability in computational engineering and physics. Applied Mechanics Reviews 57(5): 345–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Parker W.S. (2008) Computer simulation through an error-statistical lens. Synthese 163(3): 371–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Radder H. (1996) In and about the world: Philosophical studies of science and technology. SUNY Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  19. Rohrlich F. (1991) Computer simulation in the physical sciences. In: Fine A., Forbes M., Wessels L. (eds) PSA 1990 Vol. 2. East Lansing, Philosophy of Science Association, pp 507–518Google Scholar
  20. Simon H. (1969) The sciences of the artificial. MIT Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  21. Sismondo S. (1999) Models, simulations, and their objects. Science in Context 12(2): 247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tiles J.E. (1993) Experiment as intervention. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44(3): 463–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Winsberg E. (1999) Sanctioning models: The epistemology of simulation. Science in Context 12(2): 275–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Winsberg E. (2003) Simulated experiments: Methodology for a virtual world. Philosophy of Science 70: 105–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Woodward J. (2003) Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyOhio UniversityAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations