Algebraic Approach to Quantum Gravity: relative realism
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In the first of three articles, we review the philosophical foundations of an approach to quantum gravity based on a principle of representation-theoretic duality and a vaguely Kantian-Buddist perspective on the nature of physical reality which I have called `relative realism'. Central to this is a novel answer to the Plato's cave problem in which both the world outside the cave and the `set of possible shadow patterns' in the cave have equal status. We explain the notion of constructions and `co'constructions in this context and how quantum groups arise naturally as a microcosm for the unification of quantum theory and gravity. More generally, reality is `created' by choices made and forgotten that constrain our thinking much as mathematical structures have a reality created by a choice of axioms, but the possible choices are not arbitary and are themselves elements of a higher-level of reality. In this way the factual `hardness' of science is not lost while at the same time the observer is an equal partner in the process. We argue that the `ultimate laws' of physics are then no more than the rules of looking at the world in a certain self-dual way, or conversely that going to deeper theories of physics is a matter of letting go of more and more assumptions. We show how this new philosophical foundation for quantum gravity leads to a self-dual and fractal like structure that informs and motivates the concrete research reviewed in parts II,III. Our position also provides a kind of explanation of why things are quantized and why there is gravity in the first place, and possibly why there is a cosmological constant.