What can we Learn about the Ontology of Space and Time from the Theory of Relativity

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Norton, John D.
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preprint description
This chapter presents an opinionated assessment of what we can learn about the ontology of space and time from the special and general theories of relativity. It uses the requirements of novelty, modesty, realism and robustness to distinguish these morals from those that have been incorrectly drawn. We learn from Einstein’s theories of novel entanglements of categories once held distinct: space with time; space and time with matter; and space and time with causality. We do not learn that all is relative, that time in the fourth dimension in any non-trivial sense, that coordinate systems and even geometry are conventional or that spacetime should be reduced ontologically to causal, spatio-temporal or other relations.