Spacetime theory as physical geometry

Erkenntnis 42 (3):317-337 (1995)
Discussions of the metaphysical status of spacetime assume that a spacetime theory offers a causal explanation of phenomena of relative motion, and that the fundamental philosophical question is whether the inference to that explanation is warranted. I argue that those assumptions are mistaken, because they ignore the essential character of spacetime theory as a kind of physical geometry. As such, a spacetime theory does notcausally explain phenomena of motion, but uses them to construct physicaldefinitions of basic geometrical structures by coordinating them with dynamical laws. I suggest that this view of spacetime theories leads to a clearer view of the philosophical foundations of general relativity and its place in the historical evolution of spacetime theory. I also argue that this view provides a much clearer and more defensible account of what is entailed by realism concerning spacetime.
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Michael Friedman (2007). Understanding Space-Time. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (1):216--225.
Hilary Greaves (2011). In Search of (Spacetime) Structuralism. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):189-204.
Mauro Dorato (2007). Relativity Theory Between Structural and Dynamical Explanations. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (1):95 – 102.
Alberto A. Martínez (2007). There's No Pain in the FitzGerald Contraction, is There? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 38 (1):209-215.
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