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Subject:

Re: Theory and Simulation

From:

Scott Moss <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scott Moss <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 21 Nov 2003 16:04:39 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (66 lines)

I guess I should have waited another few minutes before posting.

Many contributors to the social simulation literature are hanging onto
"traditional" approaches in the socia sciences.  That is, they start
from a wholly unvalidated and sometimes implausible theory and either
test the propositions of such a theory with simulation models and
experiments or constrain their models by such a theory and apply it to
the analysis of (say) labour markets or information filtering markets or
auctions, etc.  This is an attempt to treat our new tools and approaches
as just another step in the prevailing norms of social science.

Others of us see social simulation as something new that isn't bound by
the old theories and the old norms.  In the paper I previously cited,
Bruce was arguing that we are now in a period of revolutionary science.
Now Claudio and Kathleen are arguing that we also should not be bound by
the old ("traditional") criteria for explanation and the value of a
theory.  I buy that.

If we accept that we are into a revolutionary phase of our science based
on new analytical tools and new intellectual approaches, can any of us
be certain that we have fully understood the power and the limitations
of our new tools and approaches?  If we cannot be certain, is it
appropriate to constrain either what we do or how we report it by a set
of new criteria unless those criteria emerge from the social process of
research?  That is, should the criteria not emerge from what we actually
do?  Some future philosphers of science can formalise -- or maybe
verbalise -- those criteria once social simulation has become more like
normal science.



Kathleen Carley wrote:

> From a pragmatic standpoint - it does not matter.  However, where it
> comes in to play is in how you write up the papers
> about the simulations and the way you present your results.  Also, I
> think it is useful for people to understand that there
> are two views, so that they can work with editors or reviewers with
> the other view.
>
> From a philosophy of science point of view the way you view the
> simulation in effect would also change your criteria for what
> constitutes explanation, the criteria for value of the theory, and so
> on.  In short, the "traditional" criteria - mentioned by Claudio are
> in essense outmoded - and new criteria need to be developed keeping in
> mind that our own limited cognitive facilities and our view of what
> constitutes theory will impact what constitutes explanation.
>
> As an editor, I am agnostic and welcome papers from either point of view.
>
>
> Scott Moss wrote:
>
>> If I understand the issues between Kathleen and Rosaria, the main
>> question is whether the simulation model as implemented is a theory or
>> whether the implementation is a tool of theory building.  I think I also
>> understand how this difference reflects their respective research
>> agenda.  What I haven't understood is why it matters whether we say that
>> the implementation is a theory or a theory-building tool.
>>
>> I would be grateful for enlightenment on this.
>>
>> regards,
>> scott
>

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