Space, time and falsifiability critical exposition and reply to "a panel discussion of grünbaum's philosophy of science"

Philosophy of Science 37 (4):469-588 (1970)
Prompted by the "Panel Discussion of Grünbaum's Philosophy of Science" (Philosophy of Science 36, December, 1969) and other recent literature, this essay ranges over major issues in the philosophy of space, time and space-time as well as over problems in the logic of ascertaining the falsity of a scientific hypothesis. The author's philosophy of geometry has recently been challenged along three main distinct lines as follows: (i) The Panel article by G. J. Massey calls for a more precise and more coherent account of the Riemannian conception of an intrinsic as opposed to an extrinsic metric, which the author has invoked as his basis for the distinction between non-conventional and convention-laden ascriptions of metrical equality and inequality; (ii) the latter distinction has been claimed to suffer from the liabilities of the so-called "standard conception" of scientific theories [36]; and (iii) pursuant to H. Putnam's "An Examination of Grünbaum's Philosophy of Geometry" [56], J. Earman [16, 17] and R. Swinburne [65] have contended that the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic metrics is scientifically unilluminating, and that the associated distinction between non-conventional and convention-laden metrical comparisons does not have the kind of relevance to extant scientific theories that the author has claimed for it. The essay consists of two installments. The present installment, comprising the Introduction and Part A, is devoted to the clarification, correction and further development of the author's prior writings on the philosophy of geometry. Its main objective is constructive elaboration rather than offering polemics. But rebuttals to Earman, [16, 17], Swinburne [65] and Demopoulos [13] are included, because their inclusion conduced to clarity in giving the new exposition. Part B is to appear in a subsequent issue and will be devoted to replies to critiques contained in the Panel Discussion and in other recent literature. It will range over issues in the philosophy of geometry and in the logic of ascertaining the falsity of a scientific hypothesis. By way of merely elliptical anticipation of much more precise statements given in Part A, section 3(ii), the Introduction dissociates the notion of convention-ladenness developed in Part A from the quite different notion integral to the so-called "standard conception" of scientific theories. Thereby, the Introduction prepares the ground for seeing, as a corollary to Part A, section 3(ii), that the notion advocated in the present essay has nothing to fear from the following fact, noted by C. G. Hempel ([36]; cf. also his 1970 Carus Lectures): "even though a sentence may originally be introduced as true by stipulation, it soon joins the club of all other member-statements of the theory and becomes subject to revision in response to further empirical findings and theoretical developments." Part A, which begins with a fairly detailed table of contents, endeavors to meet the aforementioned three-fold challenge to the author's philosophy of geometry. Massey's call for the provision of clear and detailed characterizations of intrinsic and extrinsic metrics is answered with the invaluable aid rendered personally by Massey himself. These characterizations are shown to permit a precise explication of the portions of Riemann's Inaugural Dissertation relevant to (1) Riemann's brilliant anticipation of Einstein's dynamical conception of physical geometry, and (2) the author's philosophical characterization of the metrics and geometries of space, time, and space-time {section 2(c)}. A byproduct of the analysis is to raise two major philosophical doubts concerning Clifford's sketch of a so-called "space-theory of matter" as elaborated in J. A. Wheeler's relativistic geometrodynamics. That theory's vision of understanding matter as a manifestation of empty curved space is questioned in regard to (1) the existence of an intra-geometrodynamic basis for individuating the metrically homogeneous world points of its space-time manifold {section 1(a)}, and (2) the compatibility of the theory with the Riemannian metrical philosophy apparently espoused by its proponents {section 2(c)(i)}
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DOI 10.1086/288327
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