Simulations, models, and theories: Complex physical systems and their representations


Using an example of a computer simulation of the convective structure of a red giant star, this paper argues that simulation is a rich inferential process, and not simply a "number crunching" technique. The scientific practice of simulation, moreover, poses some interesting and challenging epistemological and methodological issues for the philosophy of science. I will also argue that these challenges would be best addressed by a philosophy of science that places less emphasis on the representational capacity of theories (and ascribes that capacity instead to models) and more emphasis on the role of theory in guiding (rather than determining) the construction of models

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Eric Winsberg
University of South Florida

References found in this work

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
The Structure of Scientific Theories.Frederick Suppe (ed.) - 1974 - Urbana, University of Illinois Press.

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Citations of this work

Simulated Experiments: Methodology for a Virtual World.Winsberg Eric - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (1):105-125.
Holism, Entrenchment, and the Future of Climate Model Pluralism.Johannes Lenhard & Eric Winsberg - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (3):253-262.
How Can Computer Simulations Produce New Knowledge?Claus Beisbart - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (3):395-434.

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