Extending Ourselves: Computational Science, Empiricism, and Scientific Method

New York, US: Oxford University Press (2004)
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Computational science, especially computer simulations, is now the dominant procedure in many areas of science. This book contains the first systematic philosophical account of this new scientific method, and draws a parallel between the ways in which such computational methods have enhanced our abilities to mathematically model the world, and the more familiar ways in which scientific instruments have expanded our access to the empirical world. This expansion forms the basis for a new kind of empiricism better suited to the needs of science than the older anthropocentric forms of empiricism. Human abilities are no longer the ultimate standard of correctness within epistemology. The book includes arguments for the primacy of properties rather than objects, for how technology interacts with scientific methods, and a detailed account of how the path from a computational template or model to a scientific application is constructed and revised. This last feature allows us to hold a form of selective realism in which anti-realist arguments based on abstract reconstructions of theories can be avoided. One important consequence of the rise of computational methods is that the traditional organization of the sciences is being replaced by an organization founded on computational templates.



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Paul Humphreys
University of Virginia

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