Spatial ontology and physical modalities

Philosophical Studies 38 (3):261 - 285 (1980)
Most relational theories assert both that spatial discourse is reducible to talk about physical objects and their spatial relations, and that the relation of congruence derives from a non-metrical relation which intervals bear or possibly bear to measuring instruments. We have shown that there are serious logical difficulties involved in maintaining both these positions and the thesis of the continuity of space. We have also shown that Grünbaum's motivating argument for the reduction of congruence is unsound, and, moreover, that the prospects of formulating the kind of definition which this reduction requires seem to rest upon a wholly vague notion of physical possibility. Alternatively, if congruence is taken as primitive, it seems plausible that spatial discourse can be reconstructed so that there is no ontological commitment to spatial objects other than physical objects. Whether or not this relational thesis is ultimately defensible requires more elaboration of the relational theory, and investigation of its role in the formalizations of current physical theories. It is odd, considering the wide currency of relational theories, that this work has never been done
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DOI 10.1007/BF00375661
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