Change without change, and how to observe it in general relativity

Synthese 141 (3):381 - 415 (2004)
Abstract
All change involves temporal variation of properties. There is change in the physical world only if genuine physical magnitudes take on different values at different times. I defend the possibility of change in a general relativistic world against two skeptical arguments recently presented by John Earman. Each argument imposes severe restrictions on what may count as a genuine physical magnitude in general relativity. These restrictions seem justified only as long as one ignores the fact that genuine change in a relativistic world is frame-dependent. I argue on the contrary that there are genuine physical magnitudes whose values typically vary with the time of some frame, and that these include most familiar measurable quantities. Frame-dependent temporal variation in these magnitudes nevertheless supervenes on the unchanging values of more basic physical magnitudes in a general relativistic world. Basic magnitudes include those that realize an observer's occupation of a frame. Change is a significant and observable feature of a general relativistic world only because our situation in such a world naturally picks out a relevant class of frames, even if we lack the descriptive resources to say how they are realized by the values of basic underlying physical magnitudes.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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DOI 10.1023/B:SYNT.0000045127.04908.1a
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