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Profile: Gordon Belot (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
  1. Gordon Belot, An Elementary Notion of Gauge Equivalence.
    An elementary notion of gauge equivalence is introduced that does not require any Lagrangian or Hamiltonian apparatus. It is shown that in the special case of theories, such as general relativity, whose symmetries can be identified with spacetime diffeomorphisms this elementary notion has many of the same features as the usual notion. In particular, it performs well in the presence of asymptotic boundary conditions.
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  2. Gordon Belot, Background-Independence.
    Intuitively, a classical field theory is background-independent if the structure required to make sense of its equations is itself subject to dynamical evolution, rather than being imposed ab initio. The aim of this paper is to provide an explication of this intuitive notion. background-independence is not a not formal property of theories: the question whether a theory is background-independent depends upon how the theory is interpreted. Under the approach proposed here, a theory is fully backgroundindependent relative to an interpretation if (...)
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  3. Gordon Belot, Conservation Principles.
    A conservation principles tell us that some quantity, quality, or aspect remains constant through change. Such principles appear already in ancient and medieval natural philosophy. In one important strand of Greek cosmology, the rotatory motion of the celestial orbs is eternal and immutable. In optics, from at least the time of Euclid, the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence when a ray of light is reflected. According to some versions of the medieval impetus theory of motion, (...)
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  4. Gordon Belot, Review Lawrence Sklar.
    This short and engaging book, based upon Sklar’s 1998 Locke Lectures, addresses three sorts of considerations which have been thought to undercut any claim physics has, or could have, to be getting at the truth. The overarching theme is that these considerations gain their plausibility from being deployed in arguments concerning the representational fidelity of particular physical theories, and that much is lost in the philosophical process of globalisation which converts them into doubts about the representational fidelity of all physical (...)
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  5. Gordon Belot, Whatever is Never and Nowhere is Not: Space, Time, and Ontology in Classical and Quantum Gravity.
    Substantivalists claim that spacetime enjoys an existence analogous to that of material bodies, while relationalists seek to reduce spacetime to sets of possible spatiotemporal relations. The resulting debate has been central to the philosophy of space and time since the Scientific Revolution. Recently, many philosophers of physics have turned away from the debate, claiming that it is no longer of any relevance to physics. At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the debate among physicists working on quantum (...)
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  6. Gordon Belot (2014). Down to Earth Underdetermination. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1).
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  7. Gordon Belot (2013). Bayesian Orgulity. Philosophy of Science 80 (4):483-503.
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  8. Gordon Belot, Mark J. Schervish, Teddy Seidenfeld, Joseph B. Kadane, Miles MacLeod, Nancy J. Nersessian, Hylarie Kochiras, Bryan W. Roberts, Elay Shech & Richard Healey (2013). 1. Bayesian Orgulity Bayesian Orgulity (Pp. 483-503). Philosophy of Science 80 (4).
     
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  9. Gordon Belot (2012). Quantum States for Primitive Ontologists. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):67-83.
    Under so-called primitive ontology approaches, in fully describing the history of a quantum system, one thereby attributes interesting properties to regions of spacetime. Primitive ontology approaches, which include some varieties of Bohmian mechanics and spontaneous collapse theories, are interesting in part because they hold out the hope that it should not be too difficult to make a connection between models of quantum mechanics and descriptions of histories of ordinary macroscopic bodies. But such approaches are dualistic, positing a quantum state as (...)
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  10. Gordon Belot (2011). Geometric Possibility. Oxford University Press.
    Gordon Belot investigates the distinctive notion of geometric possibility that relationalists rely upon.
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  11. Gordon Belot (2011). Quantum States for Primitive Ontologists: A Case Study (Original Paper in Philosophy of Physics). European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):67-83.
     
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  12. Gordon Belot, Symmetry and Equivalence.
    This paper is concerned with the relation between two notions: that of two solutions or models of a theory being related by a symmetry of the theory and that of solutions or models being physically equivalent (in the sense of being equally well- or ill-suited to represent any given situation, relative to any reasonable interpretation). A number of authors have recently discussed this relation, some taking an optimistic view, on which there is a suitable concept of the symmetry of a (...)
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  13. Gordon Belot (2010). Transcendental Idealism Among the Jersey Metaphysicians. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 150 (3):429 - 438.
    Some questions are posed for van Fraassen, concerning the role and status of metaphysics in his Scientific Representation.
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  14. Gordon Belot & Lina Jansson (2010). Alisa Bokulich, Reexamining the Quantum-Classical Relation: Beyond Reductionism and Pluralism , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2008) ISBN 978-0-521-85720-8 Pp. X+195. [REVIEW] Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 41 (1):81-83.
  15. Gordon Belot, John Earman, Richard Healey, Tim Maudlin, Antigone Nounou & Ward Struyve, Synopsis and Discussion: Philosophy of Gauge Theory.
    This document records the discussion between participants at the workshop "Philosophy of Gauge Theory," Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, 18-19 April 2009.
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  16. Gordon Belot (2007). Is Classical Electrodynamics an Inconsistent Theory? Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (2):263-282.
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 37: 263–282. [preprint] This paper is a critical discussion of Mathias Frisch’s book Inconsistency, Asymmetry, and Nonlocality.
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  17. Gordon Belot, Some Background to the Absolute-Relational Debate.
    Some notes discussing some of the ancient and medieval background to the absolute-relational debate.
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  18. Gordon Belot (2007). The Representation of Time and Change in Mechanics. In John Earman & Jeremy Butterfield (eds.), Philosophy of Physics. Elsevier. 133--227.
    This chapter is concerned with the representation of time and change in classical (i.e., non-quantum) physical theories. One of the main goals of the chapter is to attempt to clarify the nature and scope of the so-called problem of time: a knot of technical and interpretative problems that appear to stand in the way of attempts to quantize general relativity, and which have their roots in the general covariance of that theory. The most natural approach to these questions is via (...)
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  19. Gordon Belot (2005). Dust, Time and Symmetry. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (2):255 - 291.
    Two symmetry arguments are discussed, each purporting to show that there is no more room for a preferred division of spacetime into instants of time in general relativistic cosmology than in Minkowski spacetime. The first argument is due to Gödel, and concerns the symmetries of his famous rotating cosmologies. The second turns upon the symmetries of a certain space of relativistic possibilities. Both arguments are found wanting. Introduction Symmetry arguments Gödel's argument 3.1 Time in special relativity 3.2 Time in the (...)
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  20. Gordon Belot (2005). Whose Devil? Which Details? Philosophy of Science 72 (1):128-153.
    Batterman has recently argued that fundamental theories are typically explanatorily inadequate, in that there exist physical phenomena whose explanation requires that the conceptual apparatus of a fundamental theory be supplemented by that of a less fundamental theory. This paper is an extended critical commentary on that argument: situating its importance, describing its structure, and developing a line of objection to it. The objection is that in the examples Batterman considers, the mathematics of the less fundamental theory is definable in terms (...)
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  21. Marc Ereshefsky, Mohan Matthen, Matthew H. Slater, Alex Rosenberg, D. M. Kaplan, Kevin Js Zollman, Peter Vanderschraaf, J. McKenzie Alexander, Andreas Hüttemann & Gordon Belot (2005). 10. The Facts of the Matter: A Discussion of Norton's Material Theory of Induction The Facts of the Matter: A Discussion of Norton's Material Theory of Induction (Pp. 188-197). [REVIEW] Philosophy of Science 72 (1).
     
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  22. Gordon Belot (2003). Notes on Symmetries. In Katherine A. Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press. 393--412.
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  23. Gordon Belot (2003). Remarks on the Geometry of Visibles. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (213):581–586.
    An explication is offered of Reid’s claim (discussed recently by Yaffe and others) that the geometry of the visual field is spherical geometry. It is shown that the sphere is the only surface whose geometry coincides, in a certain strong sense, with the geometry of visibles.
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  24. Gordon Belot (2003). Symmetry and Gauge Freedom. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 34 (2):189-225.
    The classical field theories that underlie the quantum treatments of the electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces share a peculiar feature: specifying the initial state of the field determines the evolution of some degrees of freedom of the theory while leaving the evolution of some others wholly arbitrary. This strongly suggests that some of the variables of the standard state space lack physical content-intuitively, the space of states of such a theory is of higher dimension than the corresponding space of genuine (...)
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  25. Gordon Belot (2001). Theory and Truth: Philosophical Critique Within Foundational Science Lawrence Sklar. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (3):647-650.
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  26. Gordon Belot (2001). The Principle of Sufficient Reason. Journal of Philosophy 98 (2):55-74.
    The paper is about the physical theories which result when one identifies points in phase space related by symmetries; with applications to problems concerning gauge freedom and the structure of spacetime in classical mechanics.
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  27. Gordon Belot & John Earman (2001). Pre-Socratic Quantum Gravity. In Craig Callender & Nick Huggett (eds.), Physics Meets Philosophy at the Planck Scale. Cambridge University Press. 213--55.
    Physicists who work on canonical quantum gravity will sometimes remark that the general covariance of general relativity is responsible for many of the thorniest technical and conceptual problems in their field.1 In particular, it is sometimes alleged that one can trace to this single source a variety of deep puzzles about the nature of time in quantum gravity, deep disagreements surrounding the notion of ‘observable’ in classical and quantum gravity, and deep questions about the nature of the existence of spacetime (...)
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  28. Lawrence Sklar & Gordon Belot (2001). Reviews-Theory and Truth: Philosophical Critique Within Foundational Science. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (3):647.
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  29. Gordon Belot (2000). Chaos and Fundamentalism. Philosophy of Science 67 (3):465.
    1. It is natural to wonder what our multitude of successful physical theories tell us about the world—singly, and as a body. What are we to think when one theory tells us about a flat Newtonian spacetime, the next about a curved Lorentzian geometry, and we have hints of others, portraying discrete or higher-dimensional structures which look something like more familiar spacetimes in appropriate limits?
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  30. Gordon Belot (2000). Geometry and Motion. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (4):561--95.
    I will discuss only one of the several entwined strands of the philosophy of space and time, the question of the relation between the nature of motion and the geometrical structure of the world.1 This topic has many of the virtues of the best philosophy of science. It is of long-standing philosophical interest and has a rich history of connections to problems of physics. It has loomed large in discussions of space and time among contemporary philosophers of science. Furthermore, there (...)
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  31. Gordon Belot (1999). Rehabilitating Relationalism. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (1):35 – 52.
    I argue that the conviction, widespread among philosophers, that substantivalism enjoys a clear superiority over relationalism in both Newtonian and relativistic physics is ill-founded. There are viable relationalist approaches to understanding these theories, and the substantival-relational debate should be of interest to philosophers and physicists alike, because of its connection with questions about the correct space of states for various physical theories.
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  32. Gordon Belot & John Earman (1999). From Metaphysics to Physics. In Jeremy Butterfield & Constantine Pagonis (eds.), From Physics to Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. 166--86.
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  33. Gordon Belot, John Earman & Laura Ruetsche (1999). The Hawking Information Loss Paradox: The Anatomy of a Controversy. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (2):189 - 229.
    Stephen Hawking has argued that universes containing evaporating black holes can evolve from pure initial states to mixed final ones. Such evolution is non-unitary and so contravenes fundamental quantum principles on which Hawking's analysis was based. It disables the retrodiction of the universe's initial state from its final one, and portends the time-asymmetry of quantum gravity. Small wonder that Hawking's paradox has met with considerable resistance. Here we use a simple result for C*-algebras to offer an argument for pure-to-mixed state (...)
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  34. Gordon Belot (1998). Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point. Philosophical Review 107 (3):477-480.
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  35. Gordon Belot (1998). Understanding Electromagnetism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):531-555.
    It is often said that the Aharonov-Bohm effect shows that the vector potential enjoys more ontological significance than we previously realized. But how can a quantum-mechanical effect teach us something about the interpretation of Maxwell's theory—let alone about the ontological structure of the world—when both theories are false? I present a rational reconstruction of the interpretative repercussions of the Aharonov-Bohm effect, and suggest some morals for our conception of the interpretative enterprise.
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  36. Gordon Belot & John Earman (1997). Chaos Out of Order: Quantum Mechanics, the Correspondence Principle and Chaos. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 28 (2):147-182.
  37. Gordon Belot (1996). Why General Relativity Does Need an Interpretation. Philosophy of Science 63 (3):88.
    There is a widespread impression that General Relativity, unlike Quantum Mechanics, is in no need of an interpretation. I present two reasons for thinking that this is a mistake. The first is the familiar hole argument. I argue that certain skeptical responses to this argument are too hasty in dismissing it as being irrelevant to the interpretative enterprise. My second reason is that interpretative questions about General Relativity are central to the search for a quantum theory of gravity. I illustrate (...)
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  38. Jeremy Butterfield, Mark Hogarth & Gordon Belot (eds.) (1996). Spacetime. Dartmouth Pub. Co..
  39. Gordon Belot (1995). Determinism and Ontology. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9 (1):85 – 101.
    Abstract In the philosophical literature, there are two common criteria for a physical theory to be deterministic. The older one is due to the logical empiricists, and is a purely formal criterion. The newer one can be found in the work of John Earman and David Lewis and depends on the intended interpretation of the theory. In this paper I argue that the former must be rejected, and something like the latter adopted. I then discuss the relevance of these points (...)
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  40. Gordon Belot (1995). New Work for Counterpart Theorists: Determinism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (2):185-195.
    Recently Carolyn Brighouse and Jeremy Butterfield have argued that David Lewis's counterpart theory makes it possible both to believe in the reality of spacetime points and to consider general relativity to be a deterministic theory, thus avoiding the ‘hole argument’ of John Earman and John Norton. Butterfield's argument relies on Lewis's own counterpart-theoretic analysis of determinism. In this paper, I argue that this analysis is inadequate. This leaves a gap in the Butterfield–Brighouse defence against the hole argument.
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