In this paper we examine the epistemic value of highly idealized agent-based models (ABMs) of social aspects of scientific inquiry. On the one hand, we argue that taking the results of such simulations as informative of actual scientific inquiry is unwarranted, at least for the class of models proposed in recent literature. Moreover, we argue that a weaker approach, which takes these models as providing only “how-possibly” explanations, does not help to improve their epistemic value. On the other hand, we suggest that if ABMs of science underwent two types of robustness analysis, they could indeed have a clear epistemic function, namely by providing evidence for philosophical and historical hypotheses. In this sense, ABMs can obtain evidential and explanatory properties and thus be a useful tool for integrated history and philosophy of science. We illustrate our point with an example of a model—building on the work by Kevin Zollman—which we apply to a concrete historical case study.
Philosophy of the Social Sciences – SAGE
Published: Jul 1, 2018
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