Fundamental and Emergent Geometry in Newtonian Physics

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):1-32 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Using as a starting point recent and apparently incompatible conclusions by Saunders and Knox, I revisit the question of the correct spacetime setting for Newtonian physics. I argue that understood correctly, these two versions of Newtonian physics make the same claims both about the background geometry required to define the theory, and about the inertial structure of the theory. In doing so I illustrate and explore in detail the view—espoused by Knox, and also by Brown —that inertial structure is defined by the dynamics governing subsystems of a larger system. This clarifies some interesting features of Newtonian physics, notably the distinction between using the theory to model subsystems of a larger whole and using it to model complete universes, and the scale-relativity of spacetime structure. _1_ Introduction _2_ Newtonian Mechanics and Galilean Spacetime _3_ Vector Relationism and Maxwellian Spacetime _4_ Recovering the Galilei Group: Dynamics of Subsystems _5_ Knox on Inertial Structure _6_ Connections on Maxwellian Spacetime _7_ Knox on Newtonian Gravity _8_ Vector Relationism and Newton–Cartan Theory _9_ Inertial Structure in Newton–Cartan Gravity _10_ Reconciling Knox and Saunders _11_ Conclusions

Similar books and articles

Theories of Newtonian gravity and empirical indistinguishability.Jonathan Bain - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (3):345--76.
Newtonian Spacetime Structure in Light of the Equivalence Principle.Eleanor Knox - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (4):863-880.
Classical relativity theory.David Malament - 2006 - In Jeremy Butterfield & John Earman (eds.), Philosophy of Physics. Amsterdam and Boston: Elsevier.
How (Not) to Define Inertial Frames.Caspar Jacobs - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.


Added to PP

417 (#51,220)

6 months
115 (#45,288)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

David Wallace
University of Pittsburgh

Citations of this work

Motivating dualities.James Read & Thomas Møller-Nielsen - 2020 - Synthese 197 (1):263-291.
How could relativity be anything other than physical.Wayne C. Myrvold - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 67:137-143.
Isolated systems and their symmetries, part I: General framework and particle-mechanics examples.David Wallace - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 92 (C):239-248.
Maxwell Gravitation.Neil Dewar - 2018 - Philosophy of Science 85 (2):249-270.

View all 24 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (3):602-605.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Philosophy of Science 42 (3):341-344.
Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time.Tim Maudlin - 2012 - Princeton University Press.

View all 39 references / Add more references