Against Pointillisme about Geometry

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Butterfield, Jeremy
preprint description
This paper forms part of a wider campaign: to deny pointillisme. That is the doctrine that a physical theory's fundamental quantities are defined at points of space or of spacetime, and represent intrinsic properties of such points or point-sized objects located there; so that properties of spatial or spatiotemporal regions and their material contents are determined by the point-by-point facts. More specifically, this paper argues against pointillisme about the structure of space and-or spacetime itself, especially a paper by Bricker (1993). A companion paper argues against pointillisme in mechanics, especially about velocity; it focusses on Tooley, Robinson and Lewis. To avoid technicalities, I conduct the argument almost entirely in the context of ``Newtonian'' ideas about space and time. But both the debate and my arguments carry over to relativistic, and even quantum, physics.