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Time, Observables, and Structure

Rickles, Dean (2011) Time, Observables, and Structure. [Preprint]

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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

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Item Type: Preprint
Additional Information: To appear in E. Landry & D. Rickles (eds.) (forthcoming 2011), Structure, Objects, and Causality, Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science, Springer.
Keywords: Structural realism, diffeomorphism symmetry, gauge invariance
Subjects: General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: Dr Dean Rickles
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2011 12:02
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2011 12:02
Item ID: 8707

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