One of the issues dividing "absolutists" and "relationists" is the question whether all motion is relative motion or, in the words of Earman, spacetime has "structures that support absolute quantities of motion." This paper argues that, despite the enormous literature bearing on the topic, it is problematic to formulate a general criterion for when a quantity counts as absolute in contrast to merely relative in a way that is not hopelessly parasitic on other, presumably distinct, senses of "absolute." Furthermore, I (...) suggest that the vicissitudes of the evolution of the concept of absolute motion have contributed to this difficulty. (shrink)
The year 1905 has been called Einstein's annus mirabilis in virtue of three ground-breaking works completed over the span of a few months --- the light quantum paper (Einstein, 1905a), the Brownian motion paper (Einstein, 1905c), and the paper on the electrodynamics of moving bodies introducing the special theory of relativity (Einstein, 1905d). There are prima facie reasons for thinking that the origins of these papers cannot be understood in isolation from one another. Due to space limitations, we concentrate primarily (...) on the light quantum paper, since, in key respects, it marks the turning point for the annus mirabilis. The task is to probe, not just how the idea of the light quantum might have occurred to Einstein, but, more importantly, what convinced him that the idea was not just a quixotic hypothesis, but an unavoidable and demonstrable feature of radiation. The crucial development, we suggest, arose from comparing the energy fluctuations that following rigorously from the Stefan-Boltmann law, as well as from Wien's distribution formula for blackbody radiation, with what it is reasonable to expect from Maxwell's electromagnetic theory of light. A special case of this is addressed in (Einstein, 1904). The outcome for the general case leads naturally to the central theoretical argument of the light quantum paper, the expectation of Brownian-like motion, and several of the key results for the electrodynamics of moving bodies. (shrink)
As is well know from Einstein the choice of a criterion for distant simultaneity is equivalent to stipulating one-way speeds for the transit of light. It is shown that any choice of non-standard synchrony is equivalent to a Lorentz local time boost. From this and considerations from the hole argument, it follows that there is a non-trivial sense in which distant simultaneity is conventional, at least to the extent that the “gauge freedom” arising in the hole argument is non-trivial.
In a number of publications, John Earman has advocated a tertium quid to the usual dichotomy between substantivalism and relationism concerning the nature of spacetime. The idea is that the structure common to the members of an equivalence class of substantival models is captured by a Leibniz algebra which can then be taken to directly characterize the intrinsic reality only indirectly represented by the substantival models. An alleged virtue of this is that, while a substantival interpretation of spacetime theories falls (...) prey to radical local indeterminism, the Leibniz algebras do not. I argue that the program of Leibniz algebras is subject to radical local indeterminism to the same extent as substantivalism. In fact, for the category of topological spaces of interest in spacetime physics, the program is equivalent to the original spacetime approach. Moreover, the motivation for the program--that isomorphic substantival models should be regarded as representing the same physical situation--is misguided. (shrink)
After some background setting in which it is shown how Maudlin's (1989, 1990) response to the hole argument of Earman and Norton (1987) is related to that of Rynasiewicz (1994), it is argued that the syntactic proposals of Mundy (1992) and of Leeds (1995), which claim to dismiss the hole argument as an uninteresting blunder, are inadequate. This leads to a discussion of how the responses of Maudlin and Rynasiewicz relate to issues about gauge freedom and relativity principles.
A number of writers have suggested that laws of nature must be universal in space and time. Just what this claim amounts to is the focus of the present study. I consider and compare a number of interpretations of the requirement, with especial reference to an example by Tooley which seems paradigmatic of the antithesis of universality in space and time. I also sketch a number of other concepts of "local", "global", and "universal", each of which should be kept distinct (...) from "universality in space and time ". I leave open the issue whether or not laws must satisfy any of the requirements. (shrink)
Isaac Newton founded classical mechanics on the view that space is something distinct from body and that time is something that passes uniformly without regard to whatever happens in the world. For this reason he spoke of absolute space and absolute time, so as to distinguish these entities from the various ways by which we measure them (which he called relative spaces and relative times). From antiquity into the eighteenth century, contrary views which denied that space and time are real (...) entities maintained that the world is necessarily a material plenum. Concerning space, they held that the idea of empty space is a conceptual impossibility. Space is nothing but an abstraction we use to compare different arrangements of the bodies constituting the plenum. Concerning time, they insisted, there can be no lapse of time without change occurring somewhere. Time is merely a measure of the cycles of change within the world. (shrink)
I address a number of questions concerning the interpretation of local time and the corresponding states theorem (CST) of the Versuch, questions which have been addressed either incompletely or inadequately in the secondary literature. In particular: (1) What is the relation between local time and the behavior of moving clocks? (2) What is the relation between the primed field variables and the electric and magnetic fields in a moving system? (3) What is the relation of the CST to the principle (...) of relativity and requirements of covariance? (4) Does the introduction of local time and the primed field variables constitute a hypothesis, i.e., an addition to or a modification of the basic theory? (shrink)
Nearly all accounts of the genesis of special relativity unhesitatingly assume that the theory was worked out in a roughly five week period following the discovery of the relativity of simultaneity. Not only is there no direct evidence for this common presupposition, there are numerous considerations which militate against it. The evidence suggests it is far more reasonable that Einstein was already in possession of the Lorentz and field transformations, that he had applied these to the dynamics of the electron, (...) and that portions of the 1905 paper had actually been drafted well before the epistemological analysis of time. (shrink)
In this paper, we introduce a suppositional view of linguistic practice that ranges over fiction, science, and mathematics. While having similar con- sequences to some other views, in particular Linsky and Zalta’s plenitudinous platonism, the view advocated here both differs fundamentally in approach and accounts for a wider range of phenomena and scientific discourse.
One finds, even in texts by distinguished physicists, diverse enunciations of the correspondence principle. Typical is that quantum mechanics should agree with classical mechanics in some appropriate limit. Most commonly, the limit specified is that of high quantum numbers, or of large masses and orbits of large dimensions. But sometimes it is specified as mean behavior when large numbers quanta are involved, or sometimes even as just the average of quantum mechanical variables. Sometimes, the principle is even taken as a (...) prescription for replacing the classical dynamical observables with an appropriate mathematical operator. In 1918, however, Bohr proposed what he would later call the correspondence principle as a way of deriving amplitudes and polarizations of emitted and absorbed spectral lines. I will begin with Bohr's principle and trace the evolution of correspondence considerations through the 1920's, with a view as to whether in each case it is supposed to play the role of a theorem, an adequacy constraint, an inductive hypothesis or a heuristic. (shrink)
The question whether distant simultaneity (relativized to an inertial frame) has a factual or a conventional status in special relativity has long been disputed and remains in contention even today. At one point it appeared that Malament (1977) had settled the issue by proving that the only non-trivial equivalence relation definable from (temporally symmetric) causal connectability is the standard simultaneity relation. Recently, though, Sarkar and Stachel (1999) claim to have identified a suspect assumption in the proof by defining a non-standard (...) simultaneity relation from causal connectability. I contend that their critique is based on a misunderstanding of the criteria for the definability of a relation, a misunderstanding that Malement's original treatment helped to foster. There are in fact a variety of notions of definability that can be brought to bear. They all, however, require a condition that suffices to secure Malament's result. The non-standard relation Sarkar and Stachel claim to be definable is not so definable, and, I argue, their proposal to modify the notion of ``causal definability'' is misguided. Finally, I address the relevance of Malament's result to the thesis of conventionalism. (shrink)
The question whether distant simultaneity has a factual or a conventional status in special relativity has long been disputed and remains in contention even today. At one point it appeared that Malament had settled the issue by proving that the only non-trivial equivalence relation definable from causal connectability is the standard simultaneity relation. Recently, however, Sarkar and Stachel claim to have identified a suspect assumption in the proof by defining a non-standard simultaneity relation from causal connectability. I contend that their (...) critique is based on a misunderstanding of the criteria for the definability of a relation, a misunderstanding that Malement's original treatment helped to foster. There are in fact a variety of notions of definability that can be brought to bear. They all, however, require a condition that suffices to secure Malament's result. The non-standard relation Sarkar and Stachel claim to be definable is not so definable, and, I argue, their proposal to modify the notion of "causal definability" is misguided. Finally, I address the relevance of Malament's result to the thesis of conventionalism. (shrink)
Although Trautman (1966) appears to give a unified‐field treatment of electrodynamics in Newtonian spacetime, there are difficulties in cogently interpreting it as such in relation to the facts of electromagnetic and magneto‐electric induction. Presented here is a covariant, nonunified field treatment of the Maxwell‐Lorentz theory with absolute space. This dispels a worry in Earman (1989) as to whether there are any historically realistic examples in which absolute space plays an indispensable role. It also shows how Trautman's formulation can be rendered (...) coherent, albeit at the cost of deunification, by reinterpreting the Maxwell tensor as a composite object involving, in part, elements from Newtonian spacetime. (shrink)
Although Trautman (1966) appears to give a unified-field treatment of electrodynamics in Newtonian spacetime, there are difficulties in cogently interpreting it as such in relation to the facts of electromagnetic and magneto-electric induction. Presented here is a covariant, non-unified field treatment of the Maxwell-Lorentz theory with absolute space. This dispels a worry in Earman (1989) as to whether there are any historically realistic examples in which absolute space plays an indispenable role. It also shows how Trautman`s formulation can be rendered (...) coherent, albeit at the cost of de-unification, by reinterpreting the Maxwell tensor as a composite object involving, in part, elements from Newtonian spacetime. (shrink)
Many take Malaments result that the standard Einstein simultaniety relation is uniquely definable from the causal structure of Minkowski space-time to be tantamount to a refutation of the claim that criterion for simultaneity in the special theory of relativity (STR) is a matter of convention. I call into question this inference by examining concrete alternatives and suggest that what has been overlooked is why it should be assumed that in STR simultaneity must be relative only to a frame of reference (...) (or an inertial observer) and not to other parameters as well. (shrink)
As I have read the scholium, it divides into three main parts, not including the introductory paragraph. The first consists of paragraphs one to four in which Newton sets out his characterizations of absolute and relative time, space, place, and motion. Although some justificatory material is included here, notably in paragraph three, the second part is reserved for the business of justifying the characterizations he has presented. The main object is to adduce grounds for believing that the absolute quantities are (...) indeed distinct from their relative measures and are not reducible to them. Paragraph five takes this up for the case of time. Paragraphs eight to twelve endeavor to do this for rest and motion by appealing to their properties, causes and effects. In arguing that absolute motion is not reducible to any particular form of the relative motion of bodies with respect to one another, and thus, as is directly argued in the third argument, must be understood in terms of motionless places, Newton thereby constructs an indirect case that absolute space is indeed something distinct from any relative space. Paragraph thirteen functions as conclusion to this line of inquiry and comments on how, in the light of this, the names of these quantities are to be interpreted in the scriptures. The third and final part consists of paragraph fourteen alone, and addresses the question: given that true motion is motion with respect to absolute space, but the parts of the latter are not perceivable, is it possible for us to know the true motions of individual bodies? Newton illustrates how this may be done from the evidence provided by their apparent motions and the forces which are the causes and effects of true motion. This forms a bridge to the body of the work insofar as the purpose of the Principia, according to Newton, is to show how this, and the converse problem, of inferring true and apparent motions from the forces, can be dealt with.Part II of this paper will appear in the next issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. (shrink)
I examine the development of Reichenbach's ideas concerning the conventionality of simultaneity in connection with his ``epsilon''-definition of simultaneity. It does not appear that he ever considered non-standard choices of ``epsilon'' that yield the same ``light-geometry'' as that of special relativity. Rather, it appears he believed that non-standard choices, though always epistemically justified, lead to different ``light-geometries'' (e.g., classical space-time) and thus would necessitate more complicated ``matter axioms'' than those postulated in his axiomatization of relativity.
It is customarily thought that in addition to the class of observed phenomena there is a larger class of observable phenomena. For a theory to be empirically adequate, it must be true on this larger class. It is denied that there is such a thing as the class observable over and above observed phenomena. This does not entail that empirical adequacy reduces to agreement with just the observed facts. Observability is a feature of abstract items in the models of theories, (...) and thus conditions their empirical import. This doctrine of observability yields a brand of empiricism that a realist might live with. (shrink)
What is science, and what is it not? Is falsifiability the key to drawing this line? How and why does science work? Should we worry whether science is talking about a "real" world? And should we stop thinking there is a single thing we can call "the scientific method"? With Deborah Mayo, Robert Rynasiewicz, and Drew Arrowood.