Sklar's Maneuver

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Skow, Bradford
preprint description
Sklar ([1974]) claimed that relationalism about ontology—the doctrine that space and time do not exist—is compatible with Newtonian mechanics. To defend this claim he sketched a relationalist interpretation of Newtonian mechanics. In his interpretation, absolute acceleration is a fundamental, intrinsic property of material bodies; that a body undergoes absolute acceleration does not entail that space and time exist. But Sklar left his proposal as just a sketch; his defense of relationalism succeeds only if the sketch can be filled in. I argue that this cannot be done. There can be no (relationalist) dynamical laws of motion based on Sklar’s proposal that capture the content of Newton’s theory. So relationalists must look elsewhere for a relationalist interpretation of Newtonian mechanics.