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Against Pointillisme about Mechanics

Butterfield, Jeremy (2005) Against Pointillisme about Mechanics. [Preprint]


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This paper forms part of a wider campaign: to deny em 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 concept of velocity in classical mechanics; especially against proposals by Tooley, Robinson and Lewis. A companion paper argues against pointillisme about (chrono)-geometry, as proposed by Bricker. To avoid technicalities, I conduct the argument almost entirely in the context of ``Newtonian'' ideas about space and time, and the classical mechanics of point-particles, i.e. extensionless particles moving in a void. But both the debate and my arguments carry over to relativistic physics.

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Item Type: Preprint
Butterfield, Jeremy
Additional Information: forthcoming in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Keywords: Intrinsic properties, extrinsic properties, velocity, classical mechanics, persistence, Tooley, Robinson, Lewis.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
Depositing User: Jeremy Butterfield
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2005
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:13
Item ID: 2553

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