"Why should we care about having true beliefs? And why do demonstrably false beliefs persist and spread despite consequences for the people who hold them? Philosophers of science Cailin O’Connor and James Weatherall argue that social factors, rather than individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the spread and persistence of false belief. It might seem that there’s an obvious reason that true beliefs matter: false beliefs will hurt you. But if that’s right, then why is it irrelevant to many (...) people whether they believe true things or not? In an age riven by "fake news," "alternative facts," and disputes over the validity of everything from climate change to the size of inauguration crowds, the authors argue that social factors, not individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the persistence of false belief and that we must know how those social forces work in order to fight misinformation effectively."–Publisher’s description. (shrink)
I argue that a criterion of theoretical equivalence due to Glymour :227–251, 1977) does not capture an important sense in which two theories may be equivalent. I then motivate and state an alternative criterion that does capture the sense of equivalence I have in mind. The principal claim of the paper is that relative to this second criterion, the answer to the question posed in the title is “yes”, at least on one natural understanding of Newtonian gravitation.
I argue that the hole argument is based on a misleading use of the mathematical formalism of general relativity. If one is attentive to mathematical practice, I will argue, the hole argument is blocked. _1._ Introduction _2._ A Warmup Exercise _3._ The Hole Argument _4._ An Argument from Classical Spacetime Theory _5._ The Hole Argument Revisited.
Contemporary societies are often “polarized”, in the sense that sub-groups within these societies hold stably opposing beliefs, even when there is a fact of the matter. Extant models of polarization do not capture the idea that some beliefs are true and others false. Here we present a model, based on the network epistemology framework of Bala and Goyal, 784–811 1998), in which polarization emerges even though agents gather evidence about their beliefs, and true belief yields a pay-off advantage. As we (...) discuss, these results are especially relevant to polarization in scientific communities, for these reasons. The key mechanism that generates polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own. (shrink)
I argue that the Hole Argument is based on a misleading use of the mathematical formalism of general relativity. If one is attentive to mathematical practice, I will argue, the Hole Argument is blocked.
I consider two usages of the expression "gauge theory". On one, a gauge theory is a theory with excess structure; on the other, a gauge theory is any theory appropriately related to classical electromagnetism. I make precise one sense in which one formulation of electromagnetism, the paradigmatic gauge theory on both usages, may be understood to have excess structure, and then argue that gauge theories on the second usage, including Yang-Mills theory and general relativity, do not generally have excess structure (...) in this sense. (shrink)
We address a recent proposal concerning ‘surplus structure’ due to Nguyen et al.. We argue that the sense of ‘surplus structure’ captured by their formal criterion is importantly different from—and in a sense, opposite to—another sense of ‘surplus structure’ used by philosophers. We argue that minimizing structure in one sense is generally incompatible with minimizing structure in the other sense. We then show how these distinctions bear on Nguyen et al.’s arguments about Yang-Mills theory and on the hole argument.
In this paper, we examine the relationship between general relativity and the theory of Einstein algebras. We show that according to a formal criterion for theoretical equivalence recently proposed by Halvorson and Weatherall, the two are equivalent theories.
In their recent book, Oreskes and Conway describe the ‘tobacco strategy’, which was used by the tobacco industry to influence policymakers regarding the health risks of tobacco products. The strategy involved two parts, consisting of promoting and sharing independent research supporting the industry’s preferred position and funding additional research, but selectively publishing the results. We introduce a model of the tobacco strategy, and use it to argue that both prongs of the strategy can be extremely effective—even when policymakers rationally update (...) on all evidence available to them. As we elaborate, this model helps illustrate the conditions under which the tobacco strategy is particularly successful. In addition, we show how journalists engaged in ‘fair’ reporting can inadvertently mimic the effects of industry on public belief. 1Introduction2Epistemic Network Models3Selective Sharing4Biased Production5Journalists as Unwitting Propagandists6ConclusionAppendix. (shrink)
Scientists are generally subject to social pressures, including pressures to conform with others in their communities, that affect achievement of their epistemic goals. Here we analyze a network epistemology model in which agents, all else being equal, prefer to take actions that conform with those of their neighbors. This preference for conformity interacts with the agents’ beliefs about which of two (or more) possible actions yields the better result. We find a range of possible outcomes, including stable polarization in belief (...) and action. The model results are sensitive to network structure. In general, though, conformity has a negative effect on a community’s ability to reach accurate consensus about the world. (shrink)
I review some recent work on applications of category theory to questions concerning theoretical structure and theoretical equivalence of classical field theories, including Newtonian gravitation, general relativity, and Yang-Mills theories.
A classic result in the foundations of Yang-Mills theory, due to J. W. Barrett ["Holonomy and Path Structures in General Relativity and Yang-Mills Theory." Int. J. Th. Phys. 30, ], establishes that given a "generalized" holonomy map from the space of piece-wise smooth, closed curves based at some point of a manifold to a Lie group, there exists a principal bundle with that group as structure group and a principal connection on that bundle such that the holonomy map corresponds to (...) the holonomies of that connection. Barrett also provided one sense in which this "recovery theorem" yields a unique bundle, up to isomorphism. Here we show that something stronger is true: with an appropriate definition of isomorphism between generalized holonomy maps, there is an equivalence of categories between the category whose objects are generalized holonomy maps on a smooth, connected manifold and whose arrows are holonomy isomorphisms, and the category whose objects are principal connections on principal bundles over a smooth, connected manifold. This result clarifies, and somewhat improves upon, the sense of "unique recovery" in Barrett's theorems; it also makes precise a sense in which there is no loss of structure involved in moving from a principal bundle formulation of Yang-Mills theory to a holonomy, or "loop", formulation. (shrink)
I review the philosophical literature on the question of when two physical theories are equivalent. This includes a discussion of empirical equivalence, which is often taken to be necessary, and sometimes taken to be sufficient, for theoretical equivalence; and “interpretational” equivalence, which is the idea that two theories are equivalent just in case they have the same interpretation. It also includes a discussion of several formal notions of equivalence that have been considered in the recent philosophical literature, including (generalized) definitional (...) equivalence and categorical equivalence. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the relationship between equivalence and duality. The article is in two parts; this is Part 1, which addresses empirical equivalence and definitional equivalence. (shrink)
There are well-known problems associated with the idea of gravitational energy in general relativity. We offer a new perspective on those problems by comparison with Newtonian gravitation, and particularly geometrized Newtonian gravitation. We show that there is a natural candidate for the energy density of a Newtonian gravitational field. But we observe that this quantity is gauge dependent, and that it cannot be defined in the geometrized theory without introducing further structure. We then address a potential response by showing that (...) there is an analogue to the Weyl tensor in geometrized Newtonian gravitation. (shrink)
In recent years, philosophers of science have explored categorical equivalence as a promising criterion for when two theories are equivalent. On the one hand, philosophers have presented several examples of theories whose relationships seem to be clarified using these categorical methods. On the other hand, philosophers and logicians have studied the relationships, particularly in the first order case, between categorical equivalence and other notions of equivalence of theories, including definitional equivalence and generalized definitional equivalence. In this article, I will express (...) some skepticism about categorical equivalence as a criterion of physical equivalence, both on technical grounds and conceptual ones. I will argue that “category structure” likely does not capture the structure of a theory, and discuss some recent work in light of this claim. (shrink)
I address a question recently raised by Simon Saunders concerning the relationship between the space-time structure of Newton-Cartan theory and that of what I will call “Maxwell-Huygens space-time.” This discussion will also clarify a connection between Saunders’s work and a recent paper by Eleanor Knox.
We study the Johansen–Ledoit–Sornette model of financial market crashes :219–255, 2000). On our view, the JLS model is a curious case from the perspective of the recent philosophy of science literature, as it is naturally construed as a “minimal model” in the sense of Batterman and Rice :349–376, 2014) that nonetheless provides a causal explanation of market crashes, in the sense of Woodward’s interventionist account of causation.
I review the philosophical literature on the question of when two physical theories are equivalent. This includes a discussion of empirical equivalence, which is often taken to be necessary, and sometimes taken to be sufficient, for theoretical equivalence; and “interpretational” equivalence, which is the idea that two theories are equivalent just in case they have the same interpretation. It also includes a discussion of several formal notions of equivalence that have been considered in the recent philosophical literature, including (generalized) definitional (...) equivalence and categorical equivalence. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the relationship between equivalence and duality. The article is in two parts; this is Part 2, which addresses categorical equivalence, interpretational equivalence, and duality. (shrink)
A theorem due to Bob Geroch and Pong Soo Jang ["Motion of a Body in General Relativity." Journal of Mathematical Physics 16, ] provides a sense in which the geodesic principle has the status of a theorem in General Relativity. I have recently shown that a similar theorem holds in the context of geometrized Newtonian gravitation [Weatherall, J. O. "The Motion of a Body in Newtonian Theories." Journal of Mathematical Physics 52, ]. Here I compare the interpretations of these two (...) theorems. I argue that despite some apparent differences between the theorems, the status of the geodesic principle in geometrized Newtonian gravitation is, mutatis mutandis, strikingly similar to the relativistic case. (shrink)
I offer an explanation of why inertial and gravitational mass are equal in Newtonian gravitation. I then argue that this is an example of a kind of explanation that is not captured by standard philosophical accounts of scientific explanation. Moreover, this form of explanation is particularly important, at least in physics, because demands for this kind of explanation are used to motivate and shape research into the next generation of physical theories. I suggest that explanations of the sort I describe (...) reveal something important about one way in which physical theories may be related diachronically. (shrink)
I begin by reviewing some recent work on the status of the geodesic principle in general relativity and the geometrized formulation of Newtonian gravitation. I then turn to the question of whether either of these theories might be said to ``explain'' inertial motion. I argue that there is a sense in which both theories may be understood to explain inertial motion, but that the sense of ``explain'' is rather different from what one might have expected. This sense of explanation is (...) connected with a view of theories---I call it the ``puzzleball view''---on which the foundations of a physical theory are best understood as a network of mutually interdependent principles and assumptions. (shrink)
Scientists are generally subject to social pressures, including pressures to conform with others in their communities, that affect achievement of their epistemic goals. Here we analyze a network epistemology model in which agents, all else being equal, prefer to take actions that conform with those of their neighbors. This preference for conformity interacts with the agents’ beliefs about which of two possible actions yields the better result. We find a range of possible outcomes, including stable polarization in belief and action. (...) The model results are sensitive to network structure. In general, though, conformity has a negative effect on a community’s ability to reach accurate consensus about the world. (shrink)
I review the philosophical literature on the question of when two physical theories are equivalent. This includes a discussion of empirical equivalence, which is often taken to be necessary, and sometimes taken to be sufficient, for theoretical equivalence; and "interpretational" equivalence, which is the idea that two theories are equivalent just in case they have the same interpretation. It also includes a discussion of several formal notions of equivalence that have been considered in the recent philosophical literature, including definitional equivalence (...) and categorical equivalence. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the relationship between equivalence and duality. (shrink)
I discuss several issues related to "classical" spacetime structure. I review Galilean, Newtonian, and Leibnizian spacetimes, and briefly describe more recent developments. The target audience is undergraduates and early graduate students in philosophy; the presentation avoids mathematical formalism as much as possible.
As Harvey Brown emphasizes in his book Physical Relativity, inertial motion in general relativity is best understood as a theorem, and not a postulate. Here I discuss the status of the "conservation condition", which states that the energy-momentum tensor associated with non-interacting matter is covariantly divergence-free, in connection with such theorems. I argue that the conservation condition is best understood as a consequence of the differential equations governing the evolution of matter in general relativity and many other theories. I conclude (...) by discussing what it means to posit a certain spacetime geometry and the relationship between that geometry and the dynamical properties of matter. (shrink)
I critically discuss two dogmas of the “dynamical approach” to spacetime in general relativity, as advanced by Harvey Brown [Physical Relativity Oxford:Oxford University Press] and collaborators. The first dogma is that positing a “spacetime geometry” has no implications for the behavior of matter. The second dogma is that postulating the “Strong Equivalence Principle” suffices to ensure that matter is “adapted” to spacetime geometry. I conclude by discussing “spacetime functionalism”. The discussion is presented in reaction to and sympathy with recent work (...) by James Read [“Explanation, geometry, and conspiracy in relativity theory” Thinking about Spacetime Boston: Birkäuser]. (shrink)
Why do people who disagree about one subject tend to disagree about other subjects as well? In this paper, we introduce a model to explore this phenomenon of ‘epistemic factionization’. Agents attempt to discover the truth about multiple propositions by testing the world and sharing evidence gathered. But agents tend to mistrust evidence shared by those who do not hold similar beliefs. This mistrust leads to the endogenous emergence of factions of agents with multiple, highly correlated, polarized beliefs.
Wilhelm (Forthcom Synth 199:6357–6369, 2021) has recently defended a criterion for comparing structure of mathematical objects, which he calls Subgroup. He argues that Subgroup is better than SYM \(^*\), another widely adopted criterion. We argue that this is mistaken; Subgroup is strictly worse than SYM \(^*\). We then formulate a new criterion that improves on both SYM \(^*\) and Subgroup, answering Wilhelm’s criticisms of SYM \(^*\) along the way. We conclude by arguing that no criterion that looks only to the (...) automorphisms of mathematical objects to compare their structure can be fully satisfactory. (shrink)
The celu of the philosophical literature on the hole argument is the 1987 paper by Earman \& Norton ["What Price Space-time Substantivalism? The Hole Story" Br. J. Phil. Sci.]. This paper has a well-known back-story, concerning work by Stachel and Norton on Einstein's thinking in the years 1913-15. Less well-known is a connection between the hole argument and Earman's work on Leibniz in the 1970s and 1980s, which in turn can be traced to an argument first presented in 1975 by (...) Howard Stein. Remarkably, this thread originates with a misattribution: the argument Earman attributes to Stein, which ultimately morphs into the hole argument, was not the argument Stein gave. The present paper explores this episode and presents some reflections on how it bears on the subsequent literature. (shrink)
There is a venerable position in the philosophy of space and time that holds that the geometry of spacetime is conventional, provided one is willing to postulate a “universal force field.” Here we ask a more focused question, inspired by this literature: in the context of our best classical theories of space and time, if one understands “force” in the standard way, can one accommodate different geometries by postulating a new force field? We argue that the answer depends on one’s (...) theory. In Newtonian gravitation the answer is yes; in relativity theory, it is no. (shrink)
We consider the motion of small bodies in general relativity. The key result captures a sense in which such bodies follow timelike geodesics. This result clarifies the relationship between approaches that model such bodies as distributions supported on a curve, and those that employ smooth fields supported in small neighborhoods of a curve. This result also applies to "bodies" constructed from wave packets of Maxwell or Klein-Gordon fields. There follows a simple and precise formulation of the optical limit for Maxwell (...) fields. (shrink)
A theorem due to Bob Geroch and Pong Soo Jang [“Motion of a Body in General Relativity.” Journal of Mathematical Physics 16, ] provides the sense in which the geodesic principle has the status of a theorem in General Relativity. Here we show that a similar theorem holds in the context of geometrized Newtonian gravitation. It follows that in Newtonian gravitation, as in GR, inertial motion can be derived from other central principles of the theory.
We argue that several apparently distinct responses to the hole argument, all invoking formal or mathematical considerations, should be viewed as a unified “mathematical response.” We then consider and rebut two prominent critiques of the mathematical response before reflecting on what is ultimately at issue in this literature.
We consider various curious features of general relativity, and relativistic field theory, in two spacetime dimensions. In particular, we discuss: the vanishing of the Einstein tensor; the failure of an initial-value formulation for vacuum spacetimes; the status of singularity theorems; the non-existence of a Newtonian limit; the status of the cosmological constant; and the character of matter fields, including perfect fluids and electromagnetic fields. We conclude with a discussion of what constrains our understanding of physics in different dimensions.
We review several topics of philosophical interest connected to misleading online content. First we consider proposed definitions of different types of misleading content. Then we consider the epistemology of misinformation, focusing on approaches from virtue epistemology and social epistemology. Finally we discuss how misinformation is related to belief polarization, and argue that models of rational polarization present special challenges for conceptualizing fake news and misinformation.
The status of the geodesic principle in General Relativity has been a topic of some interest in the recent literature on the foundations of spacetime theories. Part of this discussion has focused on the role that a certain energy condition plays in the proof of a theorem due to Bob Geroch and Pong-Soo Jang [“Motion of a Body in General Relativity.” Journal of Mathematical Physics16(1) (1975)] that can be taken to make precise the claim that the geodesic principle is a (...) theorem, rather than a postulate, of General Relativity. In this brief note, I show, by explicit counterexample, that not only is a weaker energy condition than the one Geroch and Jang state insufficient to prove the theorem, but in fact a condition still stronger than the one that they assume is necessary. (shrink)
I discuss singular space-times in the context of the geometrized formulation of Newtonian gravitation. I argue first that geodesic incompleteness is a natural criterion for when a model of geometrized Newtonian gravitation is singular, and then I show that singularities in this sense arise naturally in classical physics by stating and proving a classical version of the Raychaudhuri-Komar singularity theorem.
One of us [Gilbert, M.. “Collective Belief and Scientific Change.” Sociality and Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 37-49.] has proposed that ascriptions of beliefs to scientific communities generally involve a common notion of collective belief described by her in numerous places. A given collective belief involves a joint commitment of the parties, who thereby constitute what Gilbert refers to as a plural subject. Assuming that this interpretive hypothesis is correct, and that some of the belief ascriptions in question are (...) true, then the members of some scientific communities have obligations that may act as barriers both to the generation and, hence, the fair evaluation of new ideas and to changes in their community’s beliefs. We argue that this may help to explain Thomas Kuhn’s observations on “normal science”, and go on to develop the relationship between Gilbert's proposal and several features of a group of physicists working on a fundamental physical theory called “string theory”, as described by physicist Lee Smolin [Smolin, L.. The Trouble with Physics. Mariner Books: New York.]. We argue that the features of the string theory community that Smolin cites are well explained by the hypothesis that the community is a plural subject of belief. (shrink)
A classic problem in general relativity, long studied by both physicists and philosophers of physics, concerns whether the geodesic principle may be derived from other principles of the theory, or must be posited independently. In a recent paper [Geroch & Weatherall, "The Motion of Small Bodies in Space-Time", Comm. Math. Phys. ], Bob Geroch and I have introduced a new approach to this problem, based on a notion we call "tracking". In the present paper, I situate the main results of (...) that paper with respect to two other, related approaches, and then make some preliminary remarks on the interpretational significance of the new approach. My main suggestion is that "tracking" provides the resources for eliminating "point particles"---a problematic notion in general relativity---from the geodesic principle altogether. (shrink)
A new reading of G.E. Moore's ‘Proof of an External World’ is offered, on which the Proof is understood as a unique and essential part of an anti-sceptical strategy that Moore worked out early in his career and developed in various forms, from 1909 until his death in 1958. I begin by ignoring the Proof and by developing a reading of Moore's broader response to scepticism. The bulk of the article is then devoted to understanding what role the Proof plays (...) in Moore's strategy, and how that role is played. (shrink)
We discuss some recent work by Tim Maudlin concerning Black Hole Information Loss. We argue, contra Maudlin, that there is a paradox, in the straightforward sense that there are propositions that appear true, but which are incompatible with one another. We discuss the significance of the paradox and Maudlin's response to it.
This special issue of Foundations of Physics collects together articles representing some recent new perspectives on the hole argument in the history and philosophy of physics. Our task here is to introduce those new perspectives.
Focused correlation compares the degree of association within an evidence set to the degree of association in that evidence set given that some hypothesis is true. Wheeler and Scheines have shown that a difference in incremental confirmation of two evidence sets is robustly tracked by a difference in their focus correlation. In this essay, we generalize that tracking result by allowing for evidence having unequal relevance to the hypothesis. Our result is robust as well, and we retain conditions for bidirectional (...) tracking between incremental confirmation measures and focused correlation. (shrink)