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A tale of two methods


Simulations (both digital and analog) and experiments share many features. But what essential features distinguish them? I discuss two proposals in the literature. On one proposal, experiments investigate nature directly, while simulations merely investigate models. On another proposal, simulations differ from experiments in that simulationists manipulate objects that bear only a formal (rather than material) similarity to the targets of their investigations. Both of these proposals are rejected. I argue that simulations fundamentally differ from experiments with regard to the background knowledge that is invoked to argue for the “external validity” of the investigation.

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Correspondence to Eric Winsberg.

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Winsberg, E. A tale of two methods. Synthese 169, 575–592 (2009).

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  • Models
  • Simulations
  • Validation
  • Experiments
  • Methodology
  • Computers