What can we learn about the ontology of space and time from the theory of relativity?

Abstract

In the exuberance that followed Einstein’s discoveries, philosophers at one time or another have proposed that his theories support virtually every conceivable moral in ontology. I present an opinionated assessment, designed to avoid this overabundance. We learn from Einstein’s theories of novel entanglements of categories once held distinct: space with time; space and time with matter; and space and time with causality. We do not learn that all is relative, that time in the fourth dimension in any non-trivial sense, that coordinate systems and even geometry are conventional or that spacetime should be reduced ontologically to causal, spatio-temporal or other relations.

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2009-01-28

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Author's Profile

John D. Norton
University of Pittsburgh

References found in this work

The Direction of Time.Hans Reichenbach - 1956 - Philosophy 34 (128):65-66.
What price spacetime substantivalism? The hole story.John Earman & John Norton - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (4):515-525.
Space, Time, and Spacetime.Lawrence Sklar - 1974 - University of California Press.
Review of T he Direction of Time.Henryk Mehlberg - 1962 - Philosophical Review 71 (1):99.
The Meaning of Relativity.Albert Einstein - 1922 - London,: Routledge. Edited by Edwin P. Adams.

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