Agent-based modeling has become a common and well-established tool in the social sciences and certain humanities disciplines. Simply put, it affords a way to study a social, economic, historic, or political phenomenon by examining the iterated interactions of individuals that give rise to the phenomenon. These interactions are encoded and simulated within a computer program, allowing the modeler to analyze the influence of various parameters, test the coherence of proclaimed explanations and also discover new mechanisms. Encoding a simulation requires the modeler to specify all assumptions and mechanisms explicitly. Hence, the resulting scientific arguments tend to be precise about their underlying assumptions and their exact scope.
With the present HSR Special Issue, we aim to present a cross-section of current approaches to agent-based simulations, including contributions to social sciences, history, philosophy, and literature studies. For the social sciences, this issue contains contributions on the dynamics of social trust or the polarization of party systems. That agent-based modeling can also be applied in history is demonstrated by a simulation of medieval maritime trade in the Baltic. As to philosophy, various contributions address topics in the philosophy of science and epistemology, related, for instance, to the performance of epistemic groups and the quality of decision making procedures. Finally, agent-based simulations can be used to assess the theoretical coherence of an argument or compare the implications of competing approaches. In this issue, this method is applied to the works of Thomas S. Kuhn and Adam Smith.
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