A Metaphysical Reflection on the Notion of Background in Modern Spacetime Physics

In L. Felline, F. Paoli, E. Rossanese & A. Ledda (eds.), New Developments in Logic and Philosophy of Science. College Publications. pp. 349-365 (2016)
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Abstract

The paper presents a metaphysical characterization of spatiotemporal backgrounds from a realist perspective. The conceptual analysis is based on a heuristic sketch that encompasses the common formal traits of the major spacetime theories, such as Newtonian mechanics and general relativity. It is shown how this framework can be interpreted in a fully realist fashion, and what is the role of background structures in such a picture. In the end it is argued that, although backgrounds are a source of metaphysical discomfort, still they make a spacetime theory easy to interpret. It is also suggested that this conclusion partially explains why the notion of background independence carries a lot of conceptual difficulties.

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Antonio Vassallo
Warsaw University of Technology

References found in this work

Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion.Shamik Dasgupta - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):837-878.
The “Structure” of Physics: A Case Study.Jill North - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (2):57-88.
Foundations of Space-Time Theories.Micheal Friedman - 1983 - Princeton University Press.

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