On the Existence of Spacetime Structure

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axw014 (2014)
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Abstract

I examine the debate between substantivalists and relationalists about the ontological character of spacetime and conclude it is not well posed. I argue that the hole argument does not bear on the debate, because it provides no clear criterion to distinguish the positions. I propose two such precise criteria and construct separate arguments based on each to yield contrary conclusions, one supportive of something like relationalism and the other of something like substantivalism. The lesson is that one must fix an investigative context in order to make such criteria precise, but different investigative contexts yield inconsistent results. I examine questions of existence about spacetime structures other than the spacetime manifold itself to argue that it is more fruitful to focus on pragmatic issues of physicality, a notion that lends itself to several different explications, all of philosophical interest, none privileged a priori over any of the others. I conclude by suggesting an extension of the lessons of my arguments to the broader debate between realists and instrumentalists. 1 Introduction2 The Hole Argument3 Limits of Spacetimes4 Pointless Constructions5 The Debate between Substantivalists and Relationalists6 Existence and Physicality: An Embarassment of Spacetime Structures7 Valedictory Remarks on Realism and Instrumentalism, and the Structure of Our Knowledge of Physics.

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Erik Curiel
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

Citations of this work

Scientific Realism Made Effective.Porter Williams - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):209-237.
A new approach to the relational‐substantival debate.Jill North - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 11:3-43.
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The Hole Argument Against Everything.Joshua Norton - 2020 - Foundations of Physics 50 (4):360-378.
On the Existence of Spacetime Structure.Erik Curiel - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axw014.

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References found in this work

Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4 (11):20-40.
Interpreting Quantum Theories: The Art of the Possible.Laura Ruetsche - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
What price spacetime substantivalism? The hole story.John Earman & John Norton - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (4):515-525.

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