Time, Observables, and Structure

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Rickles, Dean
preprint description
In this chapter I consider what recent work on background independent physics can do for structuralism, and what structuralism can do for background independent physics. I focus on the problems of time and observables in gravitational physics. The ‘frozen’ character of the observables of general relativity is usually considered to constitute a serious problem for the theory. I argue that by invoking correlations between physical quantities we can provide a natural explanation of the appear- ance of time and change in timeless structures. I argue that this response can resolve a problem with Max Tegmark’s ‘extreme structuralist’ position. I then consider what bearing the mathematical representation used (namely Rovelli’s framework of ‘par- tial’ and ‘complete’ observables) has on the debate over the nature of structure in discussions of structural realism (i.e. the question of how structures are to be con- ceived). I argue that it has both the resources to ground the notion of structure in physics and to answer the ‘no relations without relata’ objection