Physical Geometry

Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2016)
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All physical theories, from classical Newtonian mechanics to relativistic quantum field theory, entail propositions concerning the geometric structure of spacetime. To give an example, the general theory of relativity entails that spacetime is curved, smooth, and four-dimensional. In this dissertation, I take the structural commitments of our theories seriously and ask: how is such structure instantiated in the physical world? Mathematically, a property like 'being curved' is perfectly well-defined insofar as we know what it means for a mathematical space to be curved. But what could it mean to say that the physical world is curved? Call this the problem of physical geometry. The problem of physical geometry is a plea for foundations--a request for fundamental truth conditions for physical-geometric propositions. My chief claim is that only a substantival theory of spacetime--a theory according to which spacetime is an entity in its own right, existing over and above the material content of the world--can supply the necessary truth conditions.



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James Binkoski
Dartmouth College

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On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
On what grounds what.Jonathan Schaffer - 2009 - In David Manley, David J. Chalmers & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 347-383.

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