Social explanation and computational simulation

Philosophical Explorations 7 (3):219-231 (2004)
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Abstract

I explore a type of computational social simulation known as artificial societies. Artificial society simulations are dynamic models of real-world social phenomena. I explore the role that these simulations play in social explanation, by situating these simulations within contemporary philosophical work on explanation and on models. Many contemporary philosophers have argued that models provide causal explanations in science, and that models are necessary mediators between theory and data. I argue that artificial society simulations provide causal mechanistic explanations. I conclude that in their current form, these simulations are based on methodologically individualist assumptions that could limit their potential scope of social explanation.

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