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Department of Philosophy

Center for the Study of Bioethics

Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade



The course modules

Lecturer: Kevin Zollman (Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University)


This module will focus on two interrelated issues. First, will be some of the nuts and bolts of writing and programming simulations.  The NetLogo simulation platform will be used to teach some basic techniques of simulation. Focus will be on how to develop, analyze, and present simulation results.  Second, will be how simulations can be used to analyze philosophically interesting questions.  Examples will be provided from social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science.



2.       Lecturer: Dunja Šešelja (Faculty of Philosophy, Ruhr University, Bochum; Ghent University)

In this module we will analyze and discuss the epistemic function of agent-based models (ABMs) of scientific inquiry, developed in the field of social epistemology and philosophy of science. Which questions can these ABMs adequately address, under which conditions, and what are their limitations? Do they provide explanations and/or predictions, or are they rather heuristic tools for formulating explanatory hypotheses? In view of these questions, we will take a look at a concrete example of such a model, namely, an argumentative agent-based model of scientific inquiry  (Borg et al. 2017). The aim of this model, programmed in NetLogo, is to examine how different social networks impact the efficiency of scientists in acquiring knowledge. After presenting the main features of the model, we will discuss the results of the simulations and the relevance of these results for actual scientific inquiry.



Borg A., Frey D., Šešelja D. and Straßer C. (2017). An argumentative agent-based model of scientific inquiry. Proceedings of the Special Track on Applications of Argumentation at the 30th International Conference on Industrial, Engineering & Other Applications of Applied Intelligent Systems (IEA/AIE), Springer-Verlag, forthcoming.


3.       Lecturer: Milan Ćirković (Astronomical Observatory, Belgrade; Department of Philosophy, University of Belgrade; Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford)


Computer simulations as guidelines to epistemology of numerical experimentation:
Great expansion of the domain of cosmological numerical simulations (in particular N-body simulations and various hydrodynamical codes) in recent years has brought an entirely new light on both the physical processes of structure formation underlying all observed physics in the universe, but on the nature and structure of information stemming from such large-scale numerical experiments. It is arguable that this development represents the most important methodological breakthrough since Galileo’s invention of the telescope and its usage to refute the Aristotelian geocentric cosmology. The „third kingdom“ of numerical experiments (beside empirical and classical theoretical research) in cosmology has not only obtained some of the best case studies, but also rather new and unexpected philosophical application, ranging from abstract metaphysics (e.g., the simulation hypothesis of Bostrom) to philosophy of science (e.g., the problem of precise quantification of complexity) to epistemology (e.g., the epistemic status of counterfactuals). In this course module we shall present ways of using cosmological simulations as prototypes and case studies of the key new trends in epistemology of computational science. As large-scale numerical simulations are becoming (i) more sophisticated in terms of the scope of simulated phenomena, (ii) more detailed in terms of increased resolution and improved averaging procedures, and (iii) drastically cheaper, it is to be expected that both the breadth and depth of their results will dramatically increase. The whole new and unexpected areas of application are opened up as well. Recent example of using cosmological simulations to search for habitable zones in galaxies similar to the Milky Way will be examined in some detail. In addition, some speculations concerning the future of such simulations will be given, with an emphasis on the possibility of resolving some of the long-standing philosophical chestnuts, like the correct approach to measuring complexity, the contingent nature of conjectures in historical sciences, or quantifying the observation-selection effects in the anthropic reasoning.