Authors
Carl Hoefer
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Abstract
This paper outlines a new interpretation of an argument of Kant's for the existence of absolute space. The Kant argument, found in a 1768 essay on topology, argues for the existence of Newtonian-Euclidean absolute space on the basis of the existence of incongruous counterparts (such as a left and a right hand, or any asymmetrical object and its mirror-image). The clear, intrinsic difference between a left hand and a right hand, Kant claimed, cannot be understood on a relational view of space - for in terms of the spatial relations of their parts, there is no difference to be found. Kant's argument has been interpreted by, among others, Graham Nerlich (in 1973, Hands, Knees and Absolute Space, The Journal of Philosophy). I briefly discuss Nerlich, and then offer a different reconstruction of the argument, one that appears to be closer to Kant's text. The reconstruction, however, essentially involves ascription of primitive identity to parts of space. Comparing the Kantian absolutist account of incongruous counterparts using primitive identity to the correct relationist account, I conclude that the absolutist account pays a heavy metaphysical price, without buying any genuine explanatory advantage over the relationist. I go on to examine recent suggestions that parity-non-conservation phenomena in quantum physics allow a stronger version of Kant's challenge to relationism. On closer examination, it turns out that here too the absolutist or substantivalist must be appealing to space parts with primitive identity in order to claim an advantage over relationists; and here too, I argue the substantivalist story really has no advantage over the correct relationist account.
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DOI 10.1080/026985900437755
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References found in this work BETA

Primitive Thisness and Primitive Identity.Robert Merrihew Adams - 1979 - Journal of Philosophy 76 (1):5-26.
The Metaphysics of Space‐Time Substantivalism.Carl Hoefer - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (1):5-27.
The Metaphysics of Space-Time Substantivalism.Carl Hoefer - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (1):5-27.
Reflections on Parity Nonconservation.Nick Huggett - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (2):219-241.

View all 24 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Physics and Leibniz's Principles.Simon Saunders - 2003 - In Katherine Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press. pp. 289--307.
Broken Symmetry and Spacetime.David John Baker - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (1):128-148.
Handedness, Parity Violation, and the Reality of Space.Oliver Pooley - 2001 - In Katherine Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press. pp. 250--280.
Dark Matter = Modified Gravity? Scrutinising the Spacetime–Matter Distinction Through the Modified Gravity/ Dark Matter Lens.Niels C. M. Martens & Dennis Lehmkuhl - 2020 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 72:237-250.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

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