David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (3):451-467 (1998)
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.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Nick Huggett (2000). Reflections on Parity Nonconservation. Philosophy of Science 67 (2):219-241.
Sascha Vongehr, Supporting Abstract Relational Space-Time as Fundamental Without Doctrinism Against Emergence.
D. Dieks (2001). Space and Time in Particle and Field Physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 32 (2):217-241.
J. R. Lucas (1990). Spacetime and Electromagnetism: An Essay on the Philosophy of the Special Theory of Relativity. Oxford University Press.
Tim Maudlin (1993). Buckets of Water and Waves of Space: Why Spacetime is Probably a Substance. Philosophy of Science 60 (2):183-203.
Robert Rynasiewicz (1996). Absolute Versus Relational Space-Time: An Outmoded Debate? Journal of Philosophy 93 (6):279-306.
Edward Slowik, Spacetime, Structural Realism, and the Substantival/Relational Debate: An Ontological Investigation From the Perspective of Structural Realism in the Philosophy of Mathematics.
Mauro Dorato, Is Structural Spacetime Realism Relationism in Disguise? The Supererogatory Nature of the Substantivalism/Relationism Debate.
Robert DiSalle (1992). Einstein, Newton and the Empirical Foundations of Space Time Geometry. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 6 (3):181 – 189.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads84 ( #18,436 of 1,413,361 )
Recent downloads (6 months)12 ( #17,861 of 1,413,361 )
How can I increase my downloads?