On the space-time ontology of physical theories

Philosophy of Science 49 (4):575-590 (1982)
Abstract
In the correspondence with Clarke, Leibniz proposes to construe physical theory in terms of physical (spatio-temporal) relations between physical objects, thus avoiding incorporation of infinite totalities of abstract entities (such as Newtonian space) in physical ontology. It has generally been felt that this proposal cannot be carried out. I demonstrate an equivalence between formulations postulating space-time as an infinite totality and formulations allowing only possible spatio-temporal relations of physical (point-) objects. The resulting rigorous formulations of physical theory may be seen to follow Leibniz' suggestion quite closely. On the other hand, physical assumptions implicit in the postulation of space-time totalities are made explicit in the reconstruction of the space-time versions from the physical-relation versions
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