Knox’s inertial spacetime functionalism

Synthese 199 (Suppl 2):1-22 (2020)
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Eleanor Knox has argued that our concept of spacetime applies to whichever structure plays a certain functional role in the laws. I raise two objections to this inertial functionalism. First, it depends on a prior assumption about which coordinate systems defined in a theory are reference frames, and hence on assumptions about which geometric structures are spatiotemporal. This makes Knox’s account circular. Second, her account is vulnerable to several counterexamples, giving the wrong result when applied to topological quantum field theories and parity- and time-asymmetric theories. I advance an alternative account on which our spacetime concept is a cluster concept. On this view, the notion of metaphysical fundamentality may feature in the cluster, in which case spacetime functionalism may be uninformative in the absence of answers to fundamental metaphysical questions like the substantivalist/relationist debate.



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David Baker
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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