Relationalism about mechanics based on a minimalist ontology of matter

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European Journal for Philosophy of Science, ISSN: 1879-4912, Vol: 7, Issue: 2, Page: 299-318

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Vassallo, Antonio; Deckert, Dirk-André; Esfeld, Michael
Springer Nature
Arts and Humanities
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article description
This paper elaborates on relationalism about space and time as motivated by a minimalist ontology of the physical world: there are only matter points that are individuated by the distance relations among them, with these relations changing. We assess two strategies to combine this ontology with physics, using classical mechanics as an example. The Humean strategy adopts the standard, non-relationalist physical theories as they stand and interprets their formal apparatus as the means of bookkeeping of the change of the distance relations instead of committing us to additional elements of the ontology. The alternative theoretical strategy seeks to combine the relationalist ontology with a relationalist physical theory that reproduces the predictions of the standard theory in the domain where these are empirically tested. We show that, as things stand, this strategy cannot be accomplished without compromising a minimalist relationalist ontology.