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Computer simulations as experiments

Abstract

Whereas computer simulations involve no direct physical interaction between the machine they are run on and the physical systems they are used to investigate, they are often used as experiments and yield data about these systems. It is commonly argued that they do so because they are implemented on physical machines. We claim that physicality is not necessary for their representational and predictive capacities and that the explanation of why computer simulations generate desired information about their target system is only to be found in the detailed analysis of their semantic levels. We provide such an analysis and we determine the actual consequences of physical implementation for simulations.

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Correspondence to Anouk Barberousse.

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A. Barberousse, S. Franceschelli and C. Imbert have contributed equally to this work.

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Barberousse, A., Franceschelli, S. & Imbert, C. Computer simulations as experiments. Synthese 169, 557–574 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-008-9430-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-008-9430-7

Keywords

  • Experiments
  • Data
  • Machine implementation
  • Programs