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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
    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 10:25
    Last Modified: 15 Jun 2012 10:25
    Item ID: 9167

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