Thought Experiments and Computer Simulations: Same End, Different Means?

International Workshop, 11-13 March 2010

IHPST, Paris, France

Scientific committee:
Anouk Barberousse (IHPST/CNRS/ENS)
Rawad El Skaf (IHPST/Paris 1)
Paul Humphreys (University of Virginia, Department of Philosophy)
John Norton (PittsburghUniversity, Center of philosophy of science)

Whereas thought experiments have long been a common practice in science and
an important topic of philosophical analysis, the recent development of
computer simulation has not yet paid much philosophical attention to
simulations in relation to thought experiments. Conceptual investigation has
focused on the links between thought experiments and experiments on the one
hand and computer simulation and experiments on the other. However, striking
similarities between thought experiments and computer simulations can be
found. They are both used when experiments cannot be made. More generally,
both are instrumental in answering questions of the type: “What would happen
if X or Y were the case?” and in exploring the explanatory potential of

The workshop aims to further investigate the relationships between thought
experiments and computer simulation. A major question to be addressed will
be whether computer simulations can be viewed as implemented thought
experiments, at least in certain cases. The workshop is open both to case
studies and to general considerations comparing computer simulations and
thought experiments in all disciplines. While physics is undoubtedly an
ideal forum for these investigations, talks devoted to fields in which
theories play a weaker or different role, like economics, biology or
artificial life, are especially welcomed.

Abstracts (1000 words) should be sent to [email protected] by
October 1, 2009.

The workshop language is English.

Important dates
– Submission deadline 1st October 2009
– Notification about acceptance: 1st November 2010

– Workshop: 11-13 March 2010