The limitations of intertial frame spacetime functionalism

Synthese 1 (Suppl 2):229-251 (2019)

Abstract

For Knox, ‘spacetime’ is to be defined functionally, as that which picks out a structure of local inertial frames. Assuming that Knox is motivated to construct this functional definition of spacetime on the grounds that it appears to identify that structure which plays the operational role of spacetime—i.e., that structure which is actually surveyed by physical rods and clocks built from matter fields—we identify in this paper important limitations of her approach: these limitations are based upon the fact that there is a gap between inertial frame structure and that which is operationally significant in the above sense. We present five concrete cases in which these two notions come apart, before considering various ways in which Knox’s spacetime functionalism might be amended in light of these issues.

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James Read
Oxford University

References found in this work

Spacetime is as Spacetime Does.Vincent Lam & Christian Wüthrich - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 64:39-51.
Physical Relativity From a Functionalist Perspective.Eleanor Knox - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 67:118-124.
Duality and Ontology.Baptiste Le Bihan & James Read - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (12):e12555.

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Citations of this work

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.
Two Dogmas of Dynamicism.James Owen Weatherall - 2020 - Synthese 199 (S2):253-275.
Theory (In-)Equivalence and Conventionalism in F(R) Gravity.Patrick M. Duerr - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88:10-29.
Relativity without miracles.Adán Sus - 2020 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-33.

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