Spacetime theory as physical geometry

Erkenntnis 42 (3):317-337 (1995)
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Abstract

Discussions of the metaphysical status of spacetime assume that a spacetime theory offers a causal explanation of phenomena of relative motion, and that the fundamental philosophical question is whether the inference to that explanation is warranted. I argue that those assumptions are mistaken, because they ignore the essential character of spacetime theory as a kind of physical geometry. As such, a spacetime theory does notcausally explain phenomena of motion, but uses them to construct physicaldefinitions of basic geometrical structures by coordinating them with dynamical laws. I suggest that this view of spacetime theories leads to a clearer view of the philosophical foundations of general relativity and its place in the historical evolution of spacetime theory. I also argue that this view provides a much clearer and more defensible account of what is entailed by realism concerning spacetime.

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Robert Disalle
Western University

Citations of this work

Substantivalism, Relationism, and Structural Spacetime Realism.Mauro Dorato - 2000 - Foundations of Physics 30 (10):1605-1628.
Kant, Kuhn, and the rationality of science.Michael Friedman - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (2):171-90.
Minkowski spacetime and Lorentz invariance: The cart and the horse or two sides of a single coin.Pablo Acuña - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 55:1-12.

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References found in this work

What price spacetime substantivalism? The hole story.John Earman & John Norton - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (4):515-525.
The Principle of Relativity.Albert Einstein - 1923 - Dover Publications.

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