Towards a Theory of Spacetime Theories by Dennis Lehmkuhl, Gregor Schiemann, Erhard Scholz

By Dennis Lehmkuhl, Gregor Schiemann, Erhard Scholz

This contributed quantity is the results of a July 2010 workshop on the college of Wuppertal Interdisciplinary Centre for technological know-how and know-how reports which introduced jointly world-wide specialists from physics, philosophy and background, as a way to handle a collection of questions first posed within the Fifties: How will we evaluate spacetime theories? How can we pass judgement on, objectively, that's the “best” concept? Is there even a distinct solution to this question?

The aim of the workshop, and of this e-book, is to give a contribution to the improvement of a meta-theory of spacetime theories. this kind of meta-theory could display insights approximately particular spacetime theories through distilling their crucial similarities and adjustments, convey a framework for a category of theories which may be beneficial as a blueprint to construct different meta-theories, and supply a better point perspective for judging which idea so much properly describes nature. yet instead of drawing a map in wide strokes, the point of interest is on fairly wealthy areas within the “space of spacetime theories.”

This paintings may be of curiosity to physicists, in addition to philosophers and historians of technology operating with or drawn to common Relativity and/or area, Time and Gravitation extra generally.

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Because in general relativity, we understand matter to be conserved, and to be such that observers always attribute instantaneous subluminal velocities to it at every point. And it turns out that these assumptions, in the presence of the rest of the theory, imply that the only curves along which free massive test point particles can propagate are timelike geodesics. If we are committed to the rest of general relativity, then there is only one candidate principle for inertial motion. So do general relativity and/or geometrized Newtonian gravitation explain inertial motion?

More, the theorems clarify precisely how it is that the geodesic principle “fits in” among the other central principles of general relativity. It seems to me that these reflections suggest a proposal. Instead of thinking of the foundations of a physical theory as consisting of a collection of essentially independent postulates from which the rest of the theory is derived, one might instead think of the foundations of a theory as consisting of a network of mutually interdependent principles—a collection of interlocking pieces, as in the spherical puzzle in Fig.

40]). Quine famously used the “web of belief” metaphor when arguing for the interdependencies of our scientific beliefs, and against the analytic/synthetic distinction. One might worry that the puzzleball picture above is just an alternative metaphor used to make a strikingly similar point—indeed, the claim that we cannot make a fruitful distinction between top-tier and second-tier principles sounds like an argument against an analytic/synthetic distinction, at least in the narrow domain of the foundations of certain physical theories.

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