Simulation as formal and generative social science: the very idea

In Carlos Gershenson, Diederik Aerts & Bruce Edmonds (eds.), Worldviews, Science, and Us: Philosophy and Complexity. World Scientific. pp. 266--275 (2007)
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Abstract

The formal and empirical-generative perspectives of computation are demonstrated to be inadequate to secure the goals of simulation in the social sciences. Simulation does not resemble formal demonstrations or generative mechanisms that deductively explain how certain models are sufficient to generate emergent macrostructures of interest. The description of scientific practice implies additional epistemic conceptions of scientific knowledge. Three kinds of knowledge that account for a comprehensive description of the discipline were identified: formal, empirical and intentional knowledge. The use of formal conceptions of computation for describing simulation is refuted; the roles of programming languages according to intentional accounts of computation are identified; and the roles of iconographic programming languages and aesthetic machines in simulation are characterized. The roles that simulation and intentional decision making may be able to play in a participative information society are also discussed.

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