On the Existence of Spacetime Structure

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The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, ISSN: 0007-0882, Page: axw014

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Curiel, Erik
Oxford University Press (OUP), Oxford University Press
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article description
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 so-called 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.

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