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The Monist

Volume 97, Issue 3, July 2014

Models and Simulations

Otávio Bueno
Pages 378-398
DOI: 10.5840/monist201497324

Computer Simulations: An Inferential Conception

In this paper, I offer an inferential conception of computer simulations, emphasizing the role that simulations play as inferential devices to represent empirical phenomena. Three steps are involved in a simulation: an immersion step (from aspects of the empirical set up to the simulated model), a derivation step (that yields the relevant results), and an interpretation and correction step (that interprets the results in light of the empirical set up). After presenting the view, I mention some cases, such as simulations of the current flow between silicon atoms and buckyballs as well as of genetic regulatory systems. I argue that the inferential conception accommodates the integration of empirical and theoretical data; it makes sense of the role that is played by false traits in a simulation, and highlights the similarities and differences between simulations and scientific instruments.