Here, we briefly review the notion of observational indistinguishability within the context of classical general relativity. We settle a conjecture given by Malament (1977) concerning the subject and then strengthen the result considerably. The upshot is this: There seems to be a robust sense in which the global structure of every cosmological model is underdetermined.
This exploration of the global structure of spacetime within the context of general relativity examines the causal and singular structures of spacetime, revealing some of the curious possibilities that are compatible with the theory, such as `time travel' and `holes' of various types. Investigations into the epistemic and modal structures of spacetime highlight the difficulties in ruling out such possibilities, unlikely as they may seem at first. The upshot seems to be that what counts as a `physically reasonable' spacetime structure (...) in modern physics is far from clear. (shrink)
Cosmologists often use certain global properties to exclude "physically unreasonable" cosmological models from serious consideration. But, on what grounds should these properties be regarded as "physically unreasonable" if we cannot rule out, even with a robust type of inductive reasoning, the possibility of the properties obtaining in our own universe?
A number of models of general relativity seem to contain “holes” that are thought to be “physically unreasonable.” One seeks a condition to rule out these models. We examine a number of possibilities already in use. We then introduce a new condition: epistemic hole-freeness. Epistemic hole-freeness is not just a new condition—it is new in kind. In particular, it does not presuppose a distinction between space-times that are “physically reasonable” and those that are not.
Here, we clarify the relationship among three space-time conditions of interest: geodesic completeness, hole-freeness, and inextendibility. In addition, we introduce a related fourth condition: effective completeness.
There is a venerable position in the philosophy of space and time that holds that the geometry of spacetime is conventional, provided one is willing to postulate a “universal force field.” Here we ask a more focused question, inspired by this literature: in the context of our best classical theories of space and time, if one understands “force” in the standard way, can one accommodate different geometries by postulating a new force field? We argue that the answer depends on one’s (...) theory. In Newtonian gravitation the answer is yes; in relativity theory, it is no. (shrink)
Gödel's remarks concerning the ideality of time are examined. In the literature, some of these remarks have been somewhat neglected while others have been heavily criticized. In this note, we propose a clear and defensible sense in which Gödel's work bears on the question of whether there is an objective lapse of time in our world.
Malament-Hogarth spacetimes are the sort of models within general relativity that seem to allow for the possibility of supertasks. There are various ways in which these spacetimes might be considered physically problematic. Here, we examine these criticisms and investigate the prospect of escaping them.
Here we briefly review the concept of "prediction" within the context of classical relativity theory. We prove a theorem asserting that one may predict one's own future only in a closed universe. We then question whether prediction is possible at all (even in closed universes). We note that interest in prediction has stemmed from considering the epistemological predicament of the observer. We argue that the definitions of prediction found thus far in the literature do not fully appreciate this predicament. We (...) propose a more adequate alternative and show that, under this definition, prediction is essentially impossible in general relativity. (shrink)
Within the context of general relativity, we consider one definition of a “time machine” proposed by Earman, Smeenk, and Wüthrich. They conjecture that, under their definition, the class of time machine spacetimes is not empty. Here, we prove this conjecture. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Washington, Box 353350, Seattle, WA 98195‐3350; e‐mail: [email protected].
Focused correlation compares the degree of association within an evidence set to the degree of association in that evidence set given that some hypothesis is true. Wheeler and Scheines have shown that a difference in incremental confirmation of two evidence sets is robustly tracked by a difference in their focus correlation. In this essay, we generalize that tracking result by allowing for evidence having unequal relevance to the hypothesis. Our result is robust as well, and we retain conditions for bidirectional (...) tracking between incremental confirmation measures and focused correlation. (shrink)
The hole argument purportedly shows that spacetime substantivalism implies a pernicious form of indeterminism. We show that the argument is seductive only because it mistakes a trivial claim (viz. there are isomorphic models) for a significant claim (viz. there are hole isomorphisms). We prove that the latter claim is false -- thereby closing the debate about whether substantivalism implies indeterminism.
It has been suggested by Clark Glymour that the spatio-temporal structure of the universe might be underdetermined by all observational data that could ever, theoretically, be gathered. It is possible for two spacetimes to be observationally indistinguishable (OI) yet topologically distinct. David Malament extended the argument for the underdetermination of spacetime structure by showing that under quite general conditions (such as the absence of any closed timelike curves) a spacetime will always have an OI counterpart (at least in weak sense). (...) Because the plight of the cosmologist seemed to be so discouraging in this regard, Malament considered the relationship between global properties and OI spacetimes. This information is helpful to the cosmologist. It allows, in principle, one to reject some spacetime models based on observational evidence. In this paper, I consider the relationship between variants of geodesic incompleteness and different senses (some old and some new) of OI. In light of the findings, it seems that (for the most part) the predicament of the cosmologist is not good. Quite generally, versions of geodesic incompleteness are not conserved even under the strongest formulations of OI. (shrink)
Non-collapse theories of quantum mechanics have the peculiar characteristic that, although their measurements produce definite results, their state vectors remain in a superposition of possible outcomes. David Albert has used this fact to show that the standard uncertainty relations can be violated if self-measurements are made. Bradley Monton, however, has held that Albert has not been careful enough in his treatment of self-measurement and that being more careful (considering mental state supervenience) implies no violation of the relations. In this paper, (...) I will outline both Albert's proposal and Monton's objections. Then, I will show how the uncertainty relations can be violated after all (even after being as careful as Monton). Finally, I will discuss how finding a way around the objections allows us to learn more about what is and what is not possible in non-collapse theories of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
There does not seem to be a consistent way to ground the concept of “force” in Cartesian first principles. In this article, I first review the literature on the subject. Then, I offer an alternative interpretation of force—one that seems to be coherent and consistent with Descartes’ project. Not only does the new position avoid the problems of previous interpretations, but it does so in such a way as to support and justify those previous interpretations. *Received June 2007; revised June (...) 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Washington, Box 353350, Seattle, WA 98195; e‐mail: [email protected]. (shrink)
Here, we hypothesize that a smooth nongeodesic closed timelike curve is never most efficient with respect to total acceleration if a kink is permitted at the initial point. We support our hypothesis in a variety of ways. Most notably, we show Malament's opposing conjecture concerning Gödel space-time to be false.
Here, formal tools are used to pose and answer several philosophical questions concerning space and time. The questions involve the properties of possible worlds allowed by the general theory of relativity. In particular, attention is given to various causal properties such as “determinism” and “time travel”.