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Inertial motion, explanation, and the foundations of classical spacetime theories

Weatherall, James Owen (2012) Inertial motion, explanation, and the foundations of classical spacetime theories. [Preprint]

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I begin by reviewing some recent work on the status of the geodesic principle in general relativity and the geometrized formulation of Newtonian gravitation. I then turn to the question of whether either of these theories might be said to ``explain'' inertial motion. I argue that there is a sense in which both theories may be understood to explain inertial motion, but that the sense of ``explain'' is rather different from what one might have expected. This sense of explanation is connected with a view of theories---I call it the ``puzzleball view''---on which the foundations of a physical theory are best understood as a network of mutually interdependent principles and assumptions.

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Item Type: Preprint
Weatherall, James
Additional Information: Invited for inclusion in "Towards a Theory of Spacetime Theories," D. Lehmkuhl ed.
Keywords: Inertial motion, geodesic principle, general relativity, Newton-Cartan theory, geometrized Newtonian gravitation, explanation, puzzle-ball view
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Explanation
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Depositing User: James Owen Weatherall
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2012 14:25
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2012 14:25
Item ID: 9167

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