Numerous approaches to a quantum theory of gravity posit fundamental ontologies that exclude spacetime, either partially or wholly. This situation raises deep questions about how such theories could relate to the empirical realm, since arguably only entities localized in spacetime can ever be observed. Are such entities even possible in a theory without fundamental spacetime? How might they be derived, formally speaking? Moreover, since by assumption the fundamental entities cannot be smaller than the derived and so cannot ‘compose’ them in (...) any ordinary sense, would a formal derivation actually show the physical reality of localized entities? We address these questions via a survey of a range of theories of quantum gravity, and generally sketch how they may be answered positively. (shrink)
This paper investigates the significance of T-duality in string theory: the indistinguisha- bility with respect to all observables, of models attributing radically different radii to space – larger than the observable universe, or far smaller than the Planck length, say. Two interpretational branch points are identified and discussed. First, whether duals are physically equivalent or not: by considering a duality of the familiar simple harmonic oscillator, I argue that they are. Unlike the oscillator, there are no measurements ‘outside’ string theory (...) that could distinguish the duals. Second, whether duals agree or disagree on the radius of ‘target space’, the space in which strings evolve according to string theory. I argue for the latter position, because the alternative leaves it unknown what the radius is. Since duals are physically equivalent yet disagree on the radius of target space, it follows that the radius is indeterminate between them. Using an analysis of Brandenberger and Vafa (1989), I explain why – even so – space is observed to have a determinate, large radius. The conclusion is that observed, ‘phenomenal’ space is not target space, since a space cannot have both a determinate and indeterminate radius: instead phenomenal space must be a higher-level phenomenon, not fundamental. (shrink)
Could spacetime be derived rather than fundamental? The question is pressing because attempts to quantize gravity have led to theories in which (arguably) there are either no, or only extremely thin, spacetime structures. Moreover, recent proposals for the interpretation of quantum mechanics have suggested that 3-dimensional space may be an ‘appearance’ derived from the 3N-dimensional space in which an N-particle wavefunction lives (cross- reference). In fact, I will largely assume a positive answer, and investigate how it could be; in particular, (...) I want to explicate the role of philosophy in producing a satisfactory explanation of spacetime, providing a roadmap for philosophical engagement with quantum gravity. (shrink)
This paper introduces some basic ideas and formalism of physics in non-commutative geometry. My goals are three-fold: first to introduce the basic formal and conceptual ideas of non-commutative geometry, and second to raise and address some philosophical questions about it. Third, more generally to illuminate the point that deriving spacetime from a more fundamental theory requires discovering new modes of `physically salient' derivation.
A version of relationism that takes spatiotemporal structures—spatial geometry and a standard of inertia—to supervene on the history of relations between bodies is described and defended. The account is used to explain how the relationist should construe models of Newtonian mechanics in which absolute acceleration manifestly does not supervene on the relations; Ptolemaic and Copernican models for example. The account introduces a new way in which a Lewis-style ‘best system’ might capture regularities in a broadly Humean world; a defence is (...) given against a charge of indeterminism that applies to any such approach to laws. (shrink)
Weyl symmetry of the classical bosonic string Lagrangian is broken by quantization, with profound consequences described here. Reimposing symmetry requires that the background space-time satisfy the equations of general relativity: general relativity, hence classical space-time as we know it, arises from string theory. We investigate the logical role of Weyl symmetry in this explanation of general relativity: it is not an independent physical postulate but required in quantum string theory, so from a certain point of view it plays only a (...) formal role in the explanation. (shrink)
This paper aims to address conceptual issues concerning black holes in the context of string theory, with the aim of illuminating the ontological unification of gravity and matter, and the interpretation of cosmological models. §1 describes the central concepts of the theory: the fungibility of matter and geometry, and the reduction of gravity and supergravity. The ‘standard’ interpretation presented draws on that implicit in the thinking of many (but not all) string theorists, though made more explicit and systematic than usual. (...) §2 explains how to construct a stringy black hole, and some of its features, including evaporation. §3 critically examines the assumptions behind such modeling, and their bearing on ontological questions. (shrink)
Muller and Saunders () purport to demonstrate that, surprisingly, bosons and fermions are discernible; this article disputes their arguments, then derives a similar conclusion in a more satisfactory fashion. After briefly explicating their proof and indicating how it escapes earlier indiscernibility results, we note that the observables which Muller and Saunders argue discern particles are (i) non-symmetric in the case of bosons and (ii) trivial multiples of the identity in the case of fermions. Both problems undermine the claim that they (...) have shown particles to be physically discernible. We then prove two results concerning observables that are truly physical: one showing when particles are discernible and one showing when they are not (categorically) discernible. Along the way we clarify some frequently misunderstood issues concerning the interpretation of quantum observables. 1 Background2 Criticisms2.1 Bosons2.2 Fermions3 Reformulating the Insight3.1 What weakly discerns?3.2 General results4 Conclusion. (shrink)
Much apprehension has been expressed by philosophers about the method of renormalisation in quantum field theory, as it apparently requires illegitimate procedure of infinite cancellation. This has lead to various speculations, in particular in Teller (1989). We examine Teller's discussion of perturbative renormalisation of quantum fields, and show why it is inadequate. To really approach the matter one needs to understand the ideas and results of the renormalisation group, so we give a simple but comprehensive account of this topic. With (...) this in hand, we explain how renormalisation can and should be understood. One thing that is revealed is that apparently very successful theories such as quantum electro-dynamics cannot be universally true; resolving the tension between success and falsity leads to a picture in which any theory may be viewed as irreducibly phenomenological. We explain how, and argue that the support for this view is tenuous at best. (shrink)
Since antiquity, natural philosophers have struggled to comprehend the nature of three tightly interconnected concepts: space, time, and motion. A proper understanding of motion, in particular, has been seen to be crucial for deciding questions about the natures of space and time, and their interconnections. Since the time of Newton and Leibniz, philosophers’ struggles to comprehend these concepts have often appeared to take the form of a dispute between absolute conceptions of space, time and motion, and relational conceptions. This article (...) guides the reader through some of the history of these philosophical struggles. Rather than taking sides in the (alleged) ongoing debates, or reproducing the standard dialectic recounted in most introductory texts, we have chosen to scrutinize carefully the history of the thinking of the canonical participants in these debates — principally Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Mach and Einstein. Readers interested in following up either the historical questions or current debates about the natures of space, time and motion will find ample links and references scattered through the discussion and in the Other Internet Resources section below. (shrink)
Quantum gravity--the marriage of quantum physics with general relativity--is bound to contain deep and important lessons for the nature of physical time. Some of these lessons shall be canvassed here, particularly as they arise from quantum general relativity and string theory and related approaches. Of particular interest is the question of which of the intuitive aspects of time will turn out to be fundamental, and which 'emergent' in some sense.
The quantum gravity program seeks a theory that handles quantum matter fields and gravity consistently. But is such a theory really required and must it involve quantizing the gravitational field? We give reasons for a positive answer to the first question, but dispute a widespread contention that it is inconsistent for the gravitational field to be classical while matter is quantum. In particular, we show how a popular argument (Eppley and Hannah 1997) falls short of a no-go theorem, and discuss (...) possible counterexamples. Important issues in the foundations of physics are shown to bear crucially on all these considerations. (shrink)
This paper develops and defends three related forms of relationism about spacetime against attacks by contemporary substantivalists. It clarifies Newton's globes argument to show that it does not bear on relations that fail to determine geodesic motions, since the inertial effects on which Newton relies are not simply correlated with affine structure, but must be understood in dynamical terms. It develops remarks by Sklar and van Fraassen into relational versions of Newtonian mechanics, and argues that Earman does not show them (...) to trivialize the debate. (shrink)
This paper considers the implications for the relational-substantival debate of observations of parity nonconservation in weak interactions, a much neglected topic. It is argued that 'geometric proofs' of absolute space, first proposed by Kant (1768), fail, but that parity violating laws allow 'mechanical proofs', like Newton's laws. Parity violating laws are explained and arguments analogous to those of Newton's Scholium are constructed to show that they require absolute spacetime structure--namely, an orientation--as Newtonian mechanics requires affine structure. Finally, it is considered (...) how standard relationist responses to Newton's argument might respond to the new challenge of parity nonconservation. (shrink)
Why does time pass and space does not? Are there just three dimensions? What is a quantum particle? Nick Huggett shows that philosophy -- armed with a power to analyze fundamental concepts and their relationship to the human experience -- has much to say about these profound questions about the universe. In Everywhere and Everywhen, Huggett charts a journey that peers into some of the oldest questions about the world, through some of the newest, such as: What shape is space? (...) Does it have an edge? What is the difference between past and future? What is time in relativity? Is time travel possible? Are there other universes? Huggett shows that answers to these profound questions are not just reserved for physics, and that philosophy can not only address but help advance our view of our deepest questions about the universe, space, and time, and their implications for humanity. His lively, accessible introduction to these topics is suitable for a general reader with no previous exposure to these profound and exciting questions. (shrink)
This paper examines two cosmological models of quantum gravity to investigate the foundational and conceptual issues arising from quantum treatments of the big bang. While the classical singularity is erased, the quantum evolution that replaces it may not correspond to classical spacetime: it may instead be a non-spatiotemporal region, which somehow transitions to a spatiotemporal state. The different kinds of transition involved are partially characterized, the concept of a physical transition without time is investigated, and the problem of empirical incoherence (...) for regions without spacetime is discussed. (shrink)
In this paper we critically review the various attempts that have been made to understand quantum field theory. We focus on Teller's (1990) harmonic oscillator interpretation, and Bohm et al.'s (1987) causal interpretation. The former unabashedly aims to be a purely heuristic account, but we show that it is only interestingly applicable to the free bosonic field. Along the way we suggest alternative models. Bohm's interpretation provides an ontology for the theory--a classical field, with a quantum equation of motion. This (...) too has problems; it is not Lorentz invariant. (shrink)
The quantum gravity program seeks a theory that handles quantum matter fields and gravity consistently. But is such a theory really required and must it involve quantizing the gravitational field? We give reasons for a positive answer to the first question, but dispute a widespread contention that it is inconsistent for the gravitational field to be classical while matter is quantum. In particular, we show how a popular argument falls short of a no-go theorem, and discuss possible counterexamples. Important issues (...) in the foundations of physics are shown to bear crucially on all these considerations. (shrink)
Newton's arguments for the immobility of the parts of absolute space have been claimed to licence several proposals concerning his metaphysics. This paper clarifies Newton, first distinguishing two distinct arguments. Then, it demonstrates, contrary to Nerlich (), that Newton does not appeal to the identity of indiscernibles, but rather to a view about de re representation. Additionally, DiSalle () claims that one argument shows Newton to be an anti-substantivalist. I agree that its premises imply a denial of a kind of (...) substantivalism, but I show that they are inconsistent with Newton's core doctrine that not all motion is the relative motions of bodies, and so conclude that they are not part of his considered views on space. The Arguments The Identity Argument 2.1 Identity of indiscernibles for individuals 2.2 Identity of indiscernibles for worlds and states 2.3 Representation de re Kinematic Relationism Conclusion CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Numerous approaches to a quantum theory of gravity posit fundamental ontologies that exclude spacetime, either partially or wholly. This situation raises deep questions about how such theories could relate to the empirical realm, since arguably only entities localized in spacetime can ever be observed. Are such entities even possible in a theory without fundamental spacetime? How might they be derived, formally speaking? Moreover, since the fundamental entities can't be smaller than the derived by assumption and so can't 'compose' them in (...) any ordinary sense, would a formal derivation actually show the physical reality of localized entities? We address these questions via a survey of a range of theories of quantum gravity, and generally sketch how they may be answered positively. (shrink)
Since the collapse of the 'received view' consensus in the late 1960s, the question of scientific realism has been a major preoccupation of philosophers of science. This paper sketches the history of this debate, which grew from developments in the philosophy of language, but eventually took on an autonomous existence. More recently, the debate has tended towards more 'local' considerations of particular scientific episodes as a way of getting purchase on the issues. The paper reviews two such approaches, Fine's and (...) Hacking's, describing their positions, their prospects, and how they are related. Finally, the paper suggests that local philosophies of science offer a way for our discipline to engage more fruitfully with the public and the scientific community. (shrink)
We consider the question of the manner of the internalization of the geometry and topology of physical space in the mind, both the mechanism of internalization and precisely what structures are internalized. Though we will not argue for the point here, we agree with the long tradition which holds that an understanding of this issue is crucial for addressing many metaphysical and epistemological questions concerning space.
As Pooley (2001) explains, the challenge of giving a relational account of orientability (and topology more generally) is not an easy one. This paper criticizes Pooley's and other proposals, raises a range of problems for the project, and then proposes a novel way for the relationist to understand not only topology, but also the geometry of space. This proposal is the `regularity account' since it claims that geometry and topology supervene on the regular ways in which relations evolve.
This paper investigates the mathematical representation of time in physics. In existing theories time is represented by the real numbers, hence their formal proper- ties represent properties of time: these are surveyed. The central question of the paper is whether the existing representation of time is adequate, or whether it can or should be supplemented: especially, do we need a physics incorporating some kind of ‘dynamical passage’ of time? The paper argues that the existing mathematical framework is resistant to such (...) changes, and might have to be rejected by anyone seeking a physics of passage. Then it rebuts two common arguments for incorporating passage into physics, especially the claim that it is an element of experience. Finally the paper investigates whether, as has been claimed, ‘causal set theory’ provides a physics of passage. (shrink)
This paper explains the phenomenon of `entanglement exchange' within the Bohmian approach to quantum mechanics. After explaining Bohmian mechanics and entanglement exchange, in which pairs of particles become entangled without ever interacting causally in the usual, unitary sense, our aim is to use this example, to illustrate how the `pilot wave' mediates non-local correlations. The discussion thus gives a useful new way to think about entanglement exchange, and clarifies the structure of Bohmian mechanics.
I criticize a certain view of the 'quanta' of quantum mechanics that sees them as fundamentally non-atomistic and fundamentally significant for our understanding of quantum fields. In particular, I have in mind work by Redhead and Teller (1991, 1992 and Teller 1990). I prove that classical particles do not have the rather strong flavour of identity often associated with them; permuting positions and momenta does not produce distinct states. I show that even the label free excitation formalism is compatible with (...) a mild form of atomism. Finally, I summarise some of the principle objections to an 'oscillator' interpretation of quantum fields. (shrink)
Why is our knowledge of the past so much more ‘expansive’ (to pick a suitably vague term) than our knowledge of the future, and what is the best way to capture the difference(s) (i.e., in what sense is knowledge of the past more ‘expansive’)? One could reasonably approach these questions by giving necessary conditions for different kinds of knowledge, and showing how some were satisfied by certain propositions about the past, and not by corresponding propositions about the future. I take (...) it that such is the approach of Chapter 6 of Time and Chance (T&C). Here’s another such a proposal, similar to that of, but significantly different from T&C; my purpose in this section is to highlight the differences, by showing how this account fails. (shrink)
A number of commentators (especially French and Redhead, 1988, and Butterfield, 1993) have investigated the status of the principle of the identity of indiscernibles (PII) for bosons and fermions. In this paper I extend that investigation to the full range of quantum particles of any allowed kind of statistics -- `quarticles', that is. I show that for any kind (except bosons and fermions) there are states in which PII is violated by every pair of particles, some pairs and not others, (...) and by no pairs. (shrink)
In this paper we contrast the idea of a field as a system with an infinite number of degrees of freedom with a recent alternative proposed by Paul Teller in Teller (1990). We show that, although our characterisation lacks the immediate appeal of Teller's, it has more success producing agreement with intuitive categorisations than his does. We go on to extend the distinction to Quantum Mechanics, explaining the important role that it plays there. Finally, we take some time to investigate (...) the way in which strings are to be considered fields, and the important differences with scalar fields. Overall, we aim to show that many types of systems may be viewed as fields, and to point out significant distinctions amongst them, thereby expanding our understanding of what it is to fall in this category. (shrink)