Agent Based Models in Philosophy

Course Mechanics

Course Description

Computer simulations have become an important tool in philosophy of science, epistemology, philosophy of language, and value theory. In particular, in value theory and philosophy of language, simulations of "agent-based models" (ABMs) have been used to address two central philosophical topics: (1) the emergence of norms and/or morality (2) the emergence of "signaling systems" and language. This course is an introduction to these two topics.

The course is "practice-based" in the following sense. In addition to discussing contemporary philosophical papers, students will learn how to construct and analyze the types of models that are employed regularly in philosophical debates. To this end, students will learn how to program in NetLogo, a programming language designed for the construction of agent-based models. No previous programming experience is required.

Course Goals

The course has three central goals. First, students will learn the types of questions that ABMs are used to address and how ABMs differ from population models in classical economics and mathematical biology. Second, students should be able to describe two central philosophical questions about the evolution of just behavior and meaning that are being addressed with ABMs. Finally, students will learn to implement an ABM in NetLogo t o address such puzzles.

Course Files


Programming Exercises

NetLogo Code

The code for the final project and some sample NetLogo programs are available here.

Recommended Readings

Some further readings are available here.