Layers of Models in Computer Simulations

Thomas Boyer

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Abstract

I discuss here the definition of computer simulations, and more specifically Hum\-phreys' (2004) views, who considers that an object is simulated when a computer provides a solution to a computational model, which in turn represents the object of interest. I argue that Humphreys' concepts are not able to analyze really successfully a case of contemporary simulations in physics, which are more complex than the examples considered so far in the philosophical literature. So, I propose to modify Humphreys' definition of a simulation. I allow for several successive layers of computational models, and I discuss the relations that exist between these models, the computer and the object under study. A consequence of my proposal is to clarify the distinction between computational models and numerical methods, and to better understand the representational and the computational functions of models in simulations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-436
JournalInternational Studies in the Philosophy of Science
Volume28
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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Computer Simulation
Simulation
Computational Model
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Keywords

  • philosophy of science

Cite this

Boyer, Thomas. / Layers of Models in Computer Simulations. In: International Studies in the Philosophy of Science. 2014 ; Vol. 28, No. 4. pp. 417-436.
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Layers of Models in Computer Simulations. / Boyer, Thomas.

In: International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 28, No. 4, 2014, p. 417-436.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - I discuss here the definition of computer simulations, and more specifically Hum\-phreys' (2004) views, who considers that an object is simulated when a computer provides a solution to a computational model, which in turn represents the object of interest. I argue that Humphreys' concepts are not able to analyze really successfully a case of contemporary simulations in physics, which are more complex than the examples considered so far in the philosophical literature. So, I propose to modify Humphreys' definition of a simulation. I allow for several successive layers of computational models, and I discuss the relations that exist between these models, the computer and the object under study. A consequence of my proposal is to clarify the distinction between computational models and numerical methods, and to better understand the representational and the computational functions of models in simulations.

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