Absolute versus relational spacetime: For better or worse, the debate goes on

Abstract
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)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 12,088
External links
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
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

84 ( #16,988 of 1,101,947 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

30 ( #6,227 of 1,101,947 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.