This is a revised and updated edition of Graham Nerlich's classic book The Shape of Space. It develops a metaphysical account of space which treats it as a real and concrete entity. In particular, it shows that the shape of space plays a key explanatory role in space and spacetime theories. Arguing that geometrical explanation is very like causal explanation, Professor Nerlich prepares the ground for philosophical argument, and, using a number of novel examples, investigates how different spaces would affect (...) perception differently. This leads naturally to conventionalism as a non-realist metaphysics of space, an account which Professor Nerlich criticises, rejecting its Kantian and positivistic roots along with Reichenbach's famous claim that even the topology of space is conventional. He concludes that there is, in fact, no problem of underdetermination for this aspect of spacetime theories, and offers an extensive discussion of the relativity of motion. (shrink)
Graham Nerlich is one of the most distinguished of contemporary philosophers of space and time. Eleven of his essays are here brought together in a carefully structured volume, which deal with ontology and methodology in relativity, variable curvature and general relativity, and time and causation. The author has provided a new general introduction and also introductions to each part to bring the discussion more up to date and draw out the general themes. The book will be welcomed by all philosophers (...) of physics, and of science in general. (shrink)
Left and right hands are incongruent counterparts. Yet each replicates the intrinsic properties of the other. This suggests that differing relations to space make the difference. Kant's and Weyl's discussions of the problem are critically discussed. It emerges that spatial relationism fails to explain how its relations may be interpreted. An excursion into visual geometry explains the basis of handedness in the orientable structure of space.
Might something I do now make something have happened earlier? This paper is about an argument which concludes that I might. Some arguments about “backward causation” conclude that the world could have been the kind of place in which actions make things have happened earlier. The present argument says that it is that kind of place: that we actually are continually doing things that really make earlier things have happened. The argument is not new. It sees temporal direction as logically (...) independent of any direction which necessary and sufficient conditions may have and it sees causal direction as properly deriving from the latter. Thus the directions of time and of making things happen need not coincide and, as it turns out, do not actually coincide in fact. There are examples of events which are sufficient, in a suitably rich sense, for the occurrence of earlier events; hence they make the earlier events happen. My purpose in this paper is to lend support to the argument by filling in some details which ‘backward sufficient conditions’ may lay claim to. (shrink)
Paragraph 6 of Newtons Scholium argues that the parts of space cannot move. A premise of the argument – that parts have individuality only through an order of position – has drawn distinguished modern support yet little agreement among interpretations of the paragraph. I argue that the paragraph offers an a priori, metaphysical argument for absolute motion, an argument which is invalid. That order of position is powerless to distinguish one part of Euclidean space from any other has gone virtually (...) unremarked. It remains uncertain what the import of the paragraph is but it is not close to apparently similar arguments of Leibniz. (shrink)
Wesley C. Salmon (1977) has written a characteristically elegant and ingenious paper 'The Curvature of Physical Space'. He argues in it that the curvature of a space cannot be intrinsic to it. Salmon relates his view that space is affinely amorphous to Grunbaum's view (Grunbaum 1973, esp. Ch. 16 & 22) that it is metrically amorphous and acknowledges parallels between the arguments which have been offered for each opinion. I wish to dispute these conclusions on philosophical grounds quite as much (...) as on geometrical ones. Although I concentrate most on arguing for a well defined, intrinsic affinity for physical space the arguments extend easily to support a well defined, intrinsic metric. (shrink)
Paragraph 6 of Newton's Scholium argues that the parts of space cannot move. A premise of the argument -- that parts have individuality only through an "order of position" -- has drawn distinguished modern support yet little agreement among interpretations of the paragraph. I argue that the paragraph offers an a priori, metaphysical argument for absolute motion, an argument which is invalid. That "order of position" is powerless to distinguish one part of Euclidean space from any other has gone virtually (...) unremarked. It remains uncertain what the import of the paragraph is but it is not close to apparently similar arguments of Leibniz. (shrink)
Bell’s 'Lorentzian Pedagogy' has been extolled as a constructive account of the relativistic contraction of moving rods. Bell claimed advantages for teaching relativity through the older approach of Lorentz, Fitzgerald and Larmor. However, he describes the differences between their absolutist approach and the relativistic one as philosophical, and claims that the facts of physics do not force us to choose between them. Bell’s interpretation of the physics of motion contraction, and therefore of constructivist as opposed to principle approaches, is indeterminate. (...) His flawed pedagogy never directly addresses the difference between Fitzgerald and Lorentz contractions. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Special Relativity is not a branch of electromagnetism: it does not depend on light’s having a constant, limiting speed. If the theory is true, it depends on no matter theory. Rather, very general and familiar symmetries of space and time impose the form of the Lorentz transformation on every matter theory, independently of any that obeys it. I explore this and its metaphysical consequences.
Einstein’s first survey of General Relativity is deeply flawed in its informal introductory section, Part A. He presents the salient feature of the new theory as the mere lifting of coordinate restrictions on Special Relativity rather than its being a spacetime theory of gravity. Minkowski developed a different conception of Special Relativity, independent of light and signalling, with spacetime as its immediate and principal consequence. If Einstein had begun general relativity from that basis he would have avoided the many errors (...) into which Part A fell. (shrink)
In many of his writings, Quine has argued that language is indeterminate in various ways. He has pursued, at length and often, an ingenious conclusion about one such way, which he sometimes calls the inscrutability of reference and, sometimes, the inscrutability of terms. It is the conclusion that one dimension of indeterminacy leaves the references of general terms unfixed among a number of alternatives; further, that no sort of scrutiny of the terms or of the occasions of their utterance could, (...) in principle, provide a means for settling objectively which referent to assign to a term. This single doctrine assumes various guises: there is a firm claim about incompatible but equally acceptable translations of certain Japanese classifiers; there is a somewhat less clear commitment to the inscrutability of a choice between expressions and their Godel numbers as referents for quoted expressions; further, there is a yet more tentative endorsement of Harman's example of the various referents of numerical expressions given by competing set theoretic reductions of number. (shrink)