Substantivalist and Relationalist Approaches to Spacetime

In Robert Batterman (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics. Oxford University Press (2013)
Authors
Oliver Pooley
Oxford University
Abstract
Substantivalists believe that spacetime and its parts are fundamental constituents of reality. Relationalists deny this, claiming that spacetime enjoys only a derivative existence. I begin by describing how the Galilean symmetries of Newtonian physics tell against both Newton's brand of substantivalism and the most obvious relationalist alternative. I then review the obvious substantivalist response to the problem, which is to ditch substantival space for substantival spacetime. The resulting position has many affinities with what are arguably the most natural interpretations of special and general relativity. I move on to consider and reject two recent antisubstantivalist lines of thought. The interim conclusion is that the best argument for relationalism is an appeal to Ockham's razor. However, for this to be successful there must be genuine relationalist theories that share the theoretical virtues of their substantivalist rivals but without the additional ontological commitment. The bulk of the paper is therefore an investigation of various concrete relationalist proposals. I distinguish three options for the relationalist in the face of the success of Galilean invariant physics and trace how these generalise to relativistic physics. One of the options is particularly promising but, since its basic objects end up being spacetime points, this does not help the prospects of relationalism as traditionally conceived. I end with some reflections on the fate of substantivalism in the aftermath of the Hole Argument, concluding that we have as yet to be given good reasons to abandon the natural, substantivalist interpretation of current physics
Keywords substantivalism  relationalism  spacetime
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2012, 2013
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 33,167
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Location and Mereology.Cody Gilmore - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Is Reality Fundamentally Qualitative?Andrew Bacon - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-37.
Yet Another New Cosmological Argument.Christopher Gregory Weaver - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80 (1):11-31.
Effective Spacetime Geometry.Eleanor Knox - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (3):346-356.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Relationalism Rehabilitated? I: Classical Mechanics.Oliver Pooley & Harvey R. Brown - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (2):183--204.
Can the Bundle Theory Save Substantivalism From the Hole Argument?Glenn Parsons & Patrick McGivern - 2001 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2001 (3):S358-.
What Price Spacetime Substantivalism? The Hole Story.John Earman & John Norton - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (4):515-525.
Spacetime and Holes.Carolyn Brighouse - 1994 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:117 - 125.
Einstein Algebras and the Hole Argument.Jonathan Bain - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1073-1085.
Rehabilitating Relationalism.Gordon Belot - 1999 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (1):35 – 52.
The Hole Argument.John Norton - 1988 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:56 - 64.
Points, Particles, and Structural Realism.Oliver Pooley - 2005 - In Dean Rickles, Steven French & Juha Saatsi (eds.), The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity. Oxford University Press. pp. 83--120.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2012-03-16

Total downloads
496 ( #5,129 of 2,242,253 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
34 ( #11,622 of 2,242,253 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature