A Global Network for Modeling in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
01 / 2010 - 12 / 2012
Models and simulations play an increasingly important role in the social and behavioral sciences (see Humphreys 2006 and Hartmann and Sprenger 2009 for reviews). This raises several philosophical questions regarding their scope and limits. Three of these questions will be addressed in the present project: (i) How do qualitative and quantitative models compare? (ii) Can reductionistic models account for emergent social phenomena? (iii) Can we give representation-free accounts of cognitive abilities? The members of this planned network, all leaders in their field, have been working on models and simulations for several years and addressed the subject matter from different, though related directions. Diez, Frigg and Hartmann have worked on scientific models and representations from the perspective of general philosophy of science and the philosophy of physics, Dubucs, Humphreys and Hartmann worked on the methodology of computer simulations with an eye on the social sciences and the role of statistics and probability in these sciences. Dubucs and Humphreys worked on models and emergence with an eye on the cognitive sciences, and Hartmann and Humphreys worked on reductionism and developed models of reduction. The present project brings these strands of research together and makes them relevant for each other, which will help to advance and to boost work on models and simulations in the social and behavioral sciences, a topic which is still too much focused on the natural sciences, especially physics. We focus on three methodological questions and address them by using the toolkit of philosophy of science (case studies, conceptual analysis). The results of the project will not only advance an area within philosophy of science: they will also be relevant for the practice of modeling in the social and behavioral sciences. Our work has already generated considerable international interest. Moreover, a lot of informal exchange took already place. This exchange should be consolidated into a more stable and enduring structure for facilitating research. In this proposal we apply for the funding of a small network with nodes in Barcelona, Charlottesville, London, Paris and Tilburg. The aim of the network consists in further research on modeling in the social and behavioral sciences and disseminating the results of this research through workshops, conferences and publications. Therefore, we kindly apply for funding of scholarly exchange, four workshops, publications, and the work needed to write an EU proposal dedicated to establishing a network for training researchers in an important and thriving branch of general philosophy of science and the philosophy of social and behavioral sciences.