Against pointillisme about mechanics

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (4):709-753 (2006)
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Abstract

This paper forms part of a wider campaign: to deny pointillisme, the doctrine that a physical theory's fundamental quantities are defined at points of space or of spacetime, and represent intrinsic properties of such points or point-sized objects located there; so that properties of spatial or spatiotemporal regions and their material contents are determined by the point-by-point facts. More specifically, this paper argues against pointillisme about the concept of velocity in classical mechanics; especially against proposals by Tooley, Robinson and Lewis. A companion paper argues against pointillisme about -geometry, as proposed by Bricker. To avoid technicalities, I conduct the argument almost entirely in the context of "Newtonian" ideas about space and time, and the classical mechanics of point-particles, i.e. extensionless particles moving in a void. But both the debate and my arguments carry over to relativistic physics. Introduction The wider campaign 2.1 Connecting physics and metaphysics 2.1.1 Avoiding controversy about the intrinsic–extrinsic distinction 2.1.2 Distinction from three mathematical distinctions 2.2 Classical mechanics is not pointilliste, and can be perdurantist 2.2.1 Two versions of pointillisme 2.2.2 Two common claims 2.2.3 My contrary claims 2.3 In more detail... 2.3.1 Four violations of pointillisme 2.3.2 For perdurantism Velocity as intrinsic? 3.1 Can properties represented by vectors be intrinsic to a point? 3.2 Orthodox velocity is extrinsic but local 3.2.1 A question and a debate 3.2.2 The verdict 3.3 Against intrinsic velocity 3.3.1 A common view—and a common problem 3.3.2 Tooley's proposal and his arguments 3.3.3 Tooley's further discussion "Shadow velocities": Lewis and Robinson 4.1 The proposal 4.2 Criticism: the vector field remains unspecified 4.3 Avoiding the presupposition of persistence, using Hilbert's symbol 4.4 Comparison with Robinson and Lewis

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Jeremy Butterfield
Cambridge University

Citations of this work

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The Action of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2013 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 87 (1):67-87.
‘How Do Things Persist.Thomas Pashby - 2016 - Dialectica 70 (3):269-309.
How involved do you want to be in a non-symmetric relationship?Fraser MacBride - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (1):1-16.

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References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Wiley-Blackwell.
New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.
Time and Chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Harvard University Press.

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