The action-reaction principle (AR) is examined in three contexts: (1) the inertial-gravitational interaction between a particle and space-time geometry, (2) protective observation of an extended wave function of a single particle, and (3) the causal-stochastic or Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics. A new criterion of reality is formulated using the AR principle. This criterion implies that the wave function of a single particle is real and justifies in the Bohm interpretation the dual ontology of the particle and its associated wave (...) function. But it is concluded that the Bohm theory is not dynamically complete because the particle and its associated wave function do not satisfy the AR principle. (shrink)
I argue that the conviction, widespread among philosophers, that substantivalism enjoys a clear superiority over relationalism in both Newtonian and relativistic physics is ill-founded. There are viable relationalist approaches to understanding these theories, and the substantival-relational debate should be of interest to philosophers and physicists alike, because of its connection with questions about the correct space of states for various physical theories.
Abstract: There are two traditionally rival views about the nature of time: substantivalism that takes time to be a substance that exists independently of events located in it, and relationism that takes time to be constructed out of events. In this paper, first, I want to make some progress with respect to the debate between these two views, and I do this mainly by examining the strategies they use to face the possibilities of ‘empty time’ and ‘time without change’. As (...) we shall see, the two allegedly very different rival views are much less different than has been thought: their structure is extremely similar, their strategies are extremely similar, and they can both face the possibilities of ‘empty time’ and ‘time without change’ in the same way. Thus, I argue in favour of a certain kind of equivalence between the two views; I discuss a Strong and a Weak version of this claim; and I provide reasons for endorsing the former. I also discuss the parallel between this pair of views about the nature of time and another analogous pair of views: the bundle theory and the substratum theory about the nature of material objects, with respect to the problem with Identity of Indiscernibles. (shrink)
Kant's argument from incongruent counterparts for substantival space is examined; it is concluded that the argument has no force against a relationist. The argument does suggest that a relationist cannot give an account of enantiomorphism, incongruent counterparts and orientability. The prospects for a relationist account of these notions are assessed, and it is found that they are good provided the relationist is some kind of modal relationist. An illustration and interpretation of these modal commitments is given.
It is argued that Minkowski space-time cannot serve as the deep structure within a ``constructive'' version of the special theory of relativity, contrary to widespread opinion in the philosophical community.
I argue that there is natural relationist interpretation of Newtonian and relativistic non-quantum physics. Although relationist, this interpretation does not fall prey to the traditional objections based on the existence of inertial effects.
This book contains selected papers from the First International Conference on the Ontology of Spacetime. Its fourteen chapters address two main questions: first, what is the current status of the substantivalism/relationalism debate, and second, what about the prospects of presentism and becoming within present-day physics and its philosophy? The overall tenor of the four chapters of the book’s first part is that the prospects of spacetime substantivalism are bleak, although different possible positions remain with respect to the ontological status of (...) spacetime. Part II and Part III of the book are devoted to presentism, eternalism, and becoming, from two different perspectives. In the six chapters of Part II it is argued, in different ways, that relativity theory does not have essential consequences for these issues. It certainly is true that the structure of time is different, according to relativity theory, from the one in classical theory. But that does not mean that a decision is forced between presentism and eternalism, or that becoming has proved to be an impossible concept. It may even be asked whether presentism and eternalism really offer different ontological perspectives at all. The writers of the last four chapters, in Part III, disagree. They argue that relativity theory is incompatible with becoming and presentism. Several of them come up with proposals to go beyond relativity, in order to restore the prospects of presentism. · Space and time in present-day physics and philosophy · Relatively low level of technicality, easily accessible · Introduction from scratch of the debates surrounding time · Top authors explaining their positions · Broad spectrum of approaches, coherently represented. (shrink)
The traditional absolutist-relationist debate is still clearly formulable in the context of General Relativity Theory (GTR), despite the important differences between Einstein's theory and the earlier context of Newtonian physics. This paper answers recent arguments by Robert Rynasiewicz against the significance of the debate in the GTR context. In his (1996) (‘Absolute vs. Relational Spacetime: An Outmoded Debate?’), Rynasiewicz argues that already in the late nineteenth century, and even more so in the context of General Relativity theory, the terms of (...) the original Descartes–Newton–Leibniz dispute about space are not to be found. Nineteenth-century ether theories of electromagnetism, and the metric field of GTR, he claims, do not lend themselves to being interpreted clearly as either absolute space à la Newton, or relational structures à la either Descartes or Leibniz. I argue that, while in some imaginable theories Rynasiewicz's claim that the classical debate dissolves would be correct, in fact in the most important historical theories he discusses, this is not the case. In particular, I argue that in both Lorentz's ether theory and General relativity theory, there is a clear and compelling way to establish connections to the classical absolutist-relationist disputes, and that in both these theories it is the absolutist position that is prima facie victorious. To support my arguments and give a clear overview of the whole debate, I end by offering definitional sketches of relationism and absolutism (substantivalism) about spacetime in the context of contemporary physics. The sketches show the clear connections between these views today and their ancestors in Newton and Leibniz. But at the same time, they indicate how both views are not just claims about existing physical theories, but rather also bets about how future physics will clarify the ontological picture. (shrink)
Since antiquity, natural philosophers have struggled to comprehend the nature of three tightly interconnected concepts: space, time, and motion. A proper understanding of motion, in particular, has been seen to be crucial for deciding questions about the natures of space and time, and their interconnections. Since the time of Newton and Leibniz, philosophers’ struggles to comprehend these concepts have often appeared to take the form of a dispute between absolute conceptions of space, time and motion, and relational conceptions. This article (...) guides the reader through some of the history of these philosophical struggles. Rather than taking sides in the (alleged) ongoing debates, or reproducing the standard dialectic recounted in most introductory texts, we have chosen to scrutinize carefully the history of the thinking of the canonical participants in these debates — principally Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Mach and Einstein. Readers interested in following up either the historical questions or current debates about the natures of space, time and motion will find ample links and references scattered through the discussion and in the Other Internet Resources section below. (shrink)
A version of relationism that takes spatiotemporal structures—spatial geometry and a standard of inertia—to supervene on the history of relations between bodies is described and defended. The account is used to explain how the relationist should construe models of Newtonian mechanics in which absolute acceleration manifestly does not supervene on the relations; Ptolemaic and Copernican models for example. The account introduces a new way in which a Lewis-style ‘best system’ might capture regularities in a broadly Humean world; a defence is (...) given against a charge of indeterminism that applies to any such approach to laws. (shrink)
This paper develops and defends three related forms of relationism about spacetime against attacks by contemporary substantivalists. It clarifies Newton's globes argument to show that it does not bear on relations that fail to determine geodesic motions, since the inertial effects on which Newton relies are not simply correlated with affine structure, but must be understood in dynamical terms. It develops remarks by Sklar and van Fraassen into relational versions of Newtonian mechanics, and argues that Earman does not show them (...) to trivialize the debate. (shrink)
This paper sketches a taxonomy of forms of substantivalism and relationism concerning space and time, and of the traditional arguments for these positions. Several natural sorts of relationism are able to account for Newton's bucket experiment. Conversely, appropriately constructed substantivalism can survive Leibniz's critique, a fact which has been obscured by the conflation of two of Leibniz's arguments. The form of relationism appropriate to the Special Theory of Relativity is also able to evade the problems raised by Field. I survey (...) the effect of the General Theory of Relativity and of plenism on these considerations. (shrink)
We are used to talking about the “structure” posited by a given theory of physics. We say that relativity is a theory about spacetime structure. Special relativity posits one spacetime structure; different models of general relativity posit different spacetime structures. We also talk of the “existence” of these structures. Special relativity says the world’s spacetime structure is Minkowskian: it posits that this spacetime structure exists. Understanding structure in this sense seems important for understanding what physics is telling us about the (...) world. But it is not immediately obvious just what this structure is, or what we mean by the existence of one structure, rather than another. The idea of mathematical structure is relatively straightforward. There is geometric structure, topological structure, algebraic structure, and so forth. Mathematical structure tells us how abstract mathematical objects t together to form different types of mathematical spaces. Insofar as we understand mathematical objects, we can understand mathematical structure. Of course, what to say about the nature of mathematical objects isn’t easy. But there seems to be no further problem for understanding mathematical structure. Modern theories of physics are formulated in terms of these mathematical structures. In order to understand “structure” as used in physics, then, it seems we must simply look at the structure of the mathematics that is used to state the physics. But it is not that simple. Physics is supposed to be telling us about the nature of the world. If our physical theories are formulated in mathematical language, using mathematical objects, then this mathematics is somehow telling us about the physical make-up of the world. What is.. (shrink)
In a companion paper (Pooley & Brown 2001) it is argued that Julian Barbour's Machian approach to dynamics provides a genuinely relational interpretation of Newtonian dynamics and that it is more explanatory than the conventional, substantival interpretation. In this paper the extension of the approach to relativistic physics is considered. General relativity, it turns out, can be reinterpreted as a perfectly Machian theory. However, there are difficulties with viewing the Machian interpretation as more fundamental than the conventional, spacetime interpretation. Moreover, (...) this state of affairs provides little solace for the relationist for, even when interpreted along Machian lines, general relativity is a substantival theory although the basic entity is space, not spacetime. (shrink)
Substantivalists believe that spacetime and its parts are fundamental constituents of reality. Relationalists deny this, claiming that spacetime enjoys only a derivative existence. I begin by describing how the Galilean symmetries of Newtonian physics tell against both Newton's brand of substantivalism and the most obvious relationalist alternative. I then review the (now) obvious substantivalist response to the problem, which is to ditch substantival space for substantival spacetime. The resulting position has many affinities with what are arguably the most natural interpretations (...) of special and general relativity. I move on to consider and reject two recent antisubstantivalist lines of thought. The interim conclusion is that the best argument for relationalism is an appeal to Ockham's razor. However, for this to be successful there must be genuine relationalist theories that share the theoretical virtues of their substantivalist rivals but without the additional ontological commitment. The bulk of the paper is therefore an investigation of various concrete relationalist proposals. I distinguish three options for the relationalist in the face of the success of Galilean invariant physics and trace how these generalise to relativistic physics. One of the options (Barbour's Machian approach to dynamics) is particularly promising but, since its basic objects end up being spacetime points, this does not help the prospects of relationalism as traditionally conceived. I end with some reflections on the fate of substantivalism in the aftermath of the Hole Argument, concluding that we have as yet to be given good reasons to abandon the natural, substantivalist interpretation of current physics. (shrink)
Julian Barbour's approach to dynamics is reviewed. With a particular focus on questions of explanation and confirmation, the approach is contrasted with standard formulations of dynamics. This paper expands upon my commentary on Lawrence Sklar's paper at the Philosophy of Time Society meeting at the APA's Central Division meeting in Chicago, April 2004. Although a commentary, the current paper is comprehensible without reference to Sklar's paper.
The implications for the substantivalist–relationalist controversy of Barbour and Bertotti's successful implementation of a Machian approach to dynamics are investigated. It is argued that in the context of Newtonian mechanics, the Machian framework provides a genuinely relational interpretation of dynamics and that it is more explanatory than the conventional, substantival interpretation. In a companion paper (Pooley [2002a]), the viability of the Machian framework as an interpretation of relativistic physics is explored. 1 Introduction 2 Newton versus Leibniz 3 Absolute space versus (...) an affine connection 4 Anti-relationalist arguments 5 Rehabilitating relationalism 6 Dynamics on the relative configuration space 7 Intrinsic particle dynamics 8 Conclusion. (shrink)
I elaborate and defend an interpretation of Leibniz on which he is committed to a stronger space-time structure than so-called Leibnizian space-time, with absolute speeds grounded in his concept of force rather than in substantival space and time. I argue that this interpretation is well-motivated by Leibniz's mature writings, that it renders his views on space, time, motion, and force consistent with his metaphysics, and that it makes better sense of his replies to Clarke than does the standard interpretation. Further, (...) it illuminates the way in which Leibniz took his physics to be grounded in his metaphysics. (shrink)
Sklar () claimed that relationalism about ontology-the doctrine that space and time do not exist-is compatible with Newtonian mechanics. To defend this claim he sketched a relationalist interpretation of Newtonian mechanics. In his interpretation, absolute acceleration is a fundamental, intrinsic property of material bodies; that a body undergoes absolute acceleration does not entail that space and time exist. But Sklar left his proposal as just a sketch; his defense of relationalism succeeds only if the sketch can be filled in. I (...) argue that this cannot be done. There can be no (relationalist) dynamical laws of motion based on Sklar's proposal that capture the content of Newton's theory. So relationalists must look elsewhere for a relationalist interpretation of Newtonian mechanics. (shrink)