Layers of models in computer simulations

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International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, ISSN: 1469-9281, Vol: 28, Issue: 4, Page: 417-436

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Boyer-Kassem, Thomas
Informa UK Limited; Routledge
Arts and Humanities
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I discuss here the definition of computer simulations, and more specifically the views of Humphreys, who considers that an object is simulated when a computer provides a solution to a computational model, which in turn represents the object of interest. I argue that Humphreys's concepts are not able to analyse fully successfully a case of contemporary simulation in physics, which is more complex than the examples considered so far in the philosophical literature. I therefore modify Humphreys's definition of simulation. I allow for several successive layers of computational models, and I discuss the relations that exist between these models, the computer, and the object under study. An aim of my proposal is to clarify the distinction between computational models and numerical methods, and to better understand the representational and the computational functions of models in simulations.