The entry metaphysics from SEP (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) also deals with space and time, see chapter 3.2.

I am not convinced that metaphysics does contribute with any new insight to the subject. More, I suspect that the author of the entry, probably an expert in metaphysics, is not familiar with modern physics. He starts the article:

Long before the theory of relativity represented space and time as aspects of or abstractions from a single entity, spacetime, philosophers saw space and time as intimately related. (A glance through any dictionary of quotations suggests that the philosophical pairing of space and time reflects a natural, pre-philosophical tendency: “Had we but world enough, and time …”; “Dwellers all in time and space”.)

The examples cited above consider two separate entities, 1) space and 2) time, which are a “philosophical pairing”. But spacetime is not just adding space and time. One of the main conceptual changes of special relativity was to introduce 4-dimensional spacetime as its basic concept. There is a certain freedom how to decompose spacetime into a component space and a component time. The decomposition depends how the observer chooses its frame of reference.

The single invariant entity in spacetime is the light cone. It separates my future and past from my present. I am causally connected to all events within my light cone, but to none event outside my ligth cone. Hence the special theory of relativity operates with the basic entities spacetime and light cone. From them it derives space and time and the first causal relations.

From this point of view one can easily answer the question raised in SEP about whether space and time are real. If one takes real in the sense of “existing independently from any observer” then the answer is: No, space and time are not real, because they depend on the choice of reference. But spacetime is real, because it is an absolute, not a relative concept. One could ask at this point: Can we close the discussion now?

But the entry in SEP, which runs under the heading “The modern metaphysics”, continues to bring into dicussion the God concept. In my opinion, we should have learnt the lecture from history of science: It it always confusing when mixing scientific questions with theological or even religious ones.

I know that my question makes clear that I neither see nor expect any results from metaphysics concerning spacetime and the derived concepts of space and time. But I am also sure that my question

Should time and space be considered a subject of metaphysics?

will not fit the high estimation of metaphysics by other participants of StackExchange Philosophy. Therefore I hope to learn now the arguments of the adherents of metaphysics.

  • 1
    Absolute space and time were real according to Newtonian mechanics, so was ether according to Maxwell's electrodynamics. Einstein's spacetime will likely be as fleeting, as quantum gravity ideas already suggest. Immediate reality is more or less stable, but more remote grand abstractions are theory bound, and new theories often require new ontology. Ideas about it have to be generated somewhere, that is how metaphysics traditionally contributed in its better moments. – Conifold Aug 26 '15 at 20:08
  • 1
    @Conifold E.g. quantum gravity does not abolish spacetime. It abolishes a fixed background metric. Its first attempts were to quantize the metric of spacetime. Also loop quantum theory attempts to quantize certain quantities derived from the metric. - In addition you raise the interesting question whether "reality of a concept" is a limit term, meaning the limit of all implementations of the concept in successfull theories - always under the assumption that the limit exists. Do you consider the latter a metaphysical question, does metaphysics contribute to an answer? – Jo Wehler Aug 26 '15 at 20:32
  • 1
    I also think @conifold is on the right lines; in that QG will most likely abolish the usual smooth structure of spacetime; with or without a metric; it's Sorkins starting point - and that's a fundamental part of Einsteins theory; one can't directly apply Noether's theorem for example - there's no smooth structure; since the spacetime structure becomes quantised. We have essentially atoms of space-time. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 26 '15 at 22:35
  • "Spacetime is emergent" is one of the few things different approaches agree on. Metaphysics seems more fruitful in exploring "adjacent possibles" to current ontologies and reconciling their inconsistencies, than in leaping to limits. This is the kind of input actively sought from philosophers:"We need to go back to the insights behind general relativity and quantum field theory, learn to hold them together in our minds, and dare to imagine a world more strange, more beautiful, but ultimately more reasonable"- Baez. See QG for Philosophers philsci-archive.pitt.edu/5387/1/Rickles_QG.pdf – Conifold Aug 26 '15 at 23:24
  • @Conifold I find Rickles paper on quantum gravity a well-structured survey of the subject. I consider his position a philosopher and historian of physics. He is not active as a physicist himself either working in string theory or loop quantum gravity. Hence he can make a rather non-partisan judgement. He announces that chapter 7 comprises some philosophical issues. But his emphasis on the need for defining background independence is not a philosophical contribution, it is just a matter of course. – Jo Wehler Aug 29 '15 at 20:09

Space and time are distinct concepts. The fact that relativity makes of time the fourth dimension doesn't mean that space and time are not treated distinctly, as you observe yourself. The metric of relativity makes it clear that one dimension receives a special treatment, in any referential. This is what the concept of time, as opposed to space, subsumes, and the concept remains open to inquiry.

You say that space and time don't exist because of different referentials, but one should not confuse the topology, the metric and a coordinate system. Different referentials assign different space-time coordinates to events. But coordinates are not space or time, they are tools for making calculations. The lesson we should draw from this fact about the concepts of space and time is, again, open to inquiry.

Something is absolute and doesn't depend on the referential: the clock hypothesis, which says that a clock measures the (frame independent) space-time interval along its path. That looks pretty much like an absolute notion of time (since obviously, clock are not meant to measure distances). Arguably this is what the concept of time refers to in relativity.

Even conflating time and the measure of time in a specific referential, the lesson you draw, that space and time are relative to a subject, might be a possible lesson but note that "subject" is not the same as "referential" nor "observer" in the sense of physicists (which really means referential anyway), so you'd have to argue a little more to convince that space and time are not "real". It's really unfortunate that physicists use the term " observer" because it brings confusion: any human observer (=subject) is free to use any coordinate system she wishes to describe the world.

In any case it's certainly not the only lesson to draw. After all, there is also cosmological time, and perhaps there is a priviledged frame of reference, that of the CMB. If quantum mechanics is non-local, maybe that means something for time too, we don't know yet.

Furthermore (to rejoin other answers) the metaphysical questions on space and time are rarely about its existence, rather about its status: is space-time only relations between objects or events, or something more substantive (would it exist without any objects)? Can we account for the passage of time in a block universe, or is change an illusion, to be reframed in terms of different states at different locations in time? What does it imply for our understanding of causation, and the fact that most scientific explanations are causal and time-directed? Is the past hypothesis / entropy account enough to account for all kinds of scientific explanations, even when thermodynamics isn't obviously related? Or is there an intrinsic direction of time associated with "evolution" laws? Or are we merely recording regularities on the distribution of events in a block universe?

All these are meaningful questions which connects science with a broader, big picture of the world, and opinions and intuitions diverge strongly on these topics, even among scientists themselves, so science doesn't have the last word on this. It's a matter of interpreting what science tells us. That's why we are arguing.

  • +1: Julian Barbour has a timeless relational concept of the universe; and another where he's implemented one aspect of Machs principle. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 27 '15 at 2:11
  • @ quen_tin Proper time (Eigenzeit) is the time measured by a clock moving along a timelike trajectory. Because each trajectory has its own proper time, I do not consider proper time a suitable candidate for absolute time. - Relativity employs a Lorentz metric of type (1,3). Herefrom the light cone derives. But every direction in the forward (resp. backward) light cone is on an equal footing with any other. There is no distinguished time coordinate. – Jo Wehler Aug 27 '15 at 5:43
  • 1
    @Jo Wehler suffice to say that there is an absolute distinction between future-like, past-like and space-like intervals to ground an absolute concept of time even if (I agree) the concept does not refer to a specific dimension anymore. My point is that concepts of space and time are different concepts, and philosophy is about concepts. We can meet at the same place at different times, but not at the same time at different places, so space and time are meaningfully different. – Quentin Ruyant Aug 27 '15 at 8:48
  • @quen_tin To shorten our discussion: Could you please show how you ground an absolute concept of time? - Yes, philosophy is also about concepts. But relativity tells us, that some concepts from every-day life become contradictory when stretched too far into the domain of macrophysics. - Your last sentence deals with the intersection of worldlines. The fact, that we cannot meet at the same time at different places, derives from the fact that the wordlines of material objects are timelike. Now we could either go on and discuss the latter property or stop at this point. – Jo Wehler Aug 27 '15 at 9:17
  • @quen_tin You conjecture to take the CMB as a frame of reference for a cosmological time. What about the metric inside a black hole, isn't the CMB completely irrelevant for such regions of spacetime? – Jo Wehler Aug 27 '15 at 10:01

Philosophy fledges sciences at a certain point, but does not necessarily expect them to cover the whole range once included in the branch of philosophy they emerge from.

Clearly physics as a scientific discipline is competent to keep its own house and should not have metaphysics injected into it. But there are definitely parts of the metaphysical treatment of time and space that physics is not competent to address.

From Kant's viewpoint: Is spacetime an aspect of animal nature, or is it more basically real? Physics cannot even ask the question properly without involving some of the most abstruse notions ever put forward in psychology. And then it would still need to find a metaphysical basis upon which both sciences have traction. We can just insist there is no answer because physics doesn't need one. But that is a metaphysical position. One without much sense to it.

From Boltzmann's viewpoint: Is entropy something that is basic to all matter, or is it an aspect of our attachment to time? Does entropy exist because of time, or does time exist because of entropy? Physics chooses a position, but not in a way that holds water philosophically, just in a way convenient for modeling. It seems obvious that from within physics, we cannot tell -- we are limited by the perspective of extrapolating backward from memory, a process clearly dependent upon an exothermic chemical reaction.

From Whitehead's viewpoint: Is there a global interpretation that lets us see relativity and quantum mechanics as aspects of the same question, and that motivates a view of the world that will not only capture them more reasonably than our historical view, but give us tools to look at other aspects of the world in a more natural way? Physics can only resist abuse of itself in such questions. It can create theories, but it cannot actually help people make sense of them at a deeper level. Our best references for the 'meaning' of the new science, come mostly from outside it. When voices inside it arise, they tend to rely on totally hopeless metaphysics, or to end up doing metaphysics from scratch that the tradition already contains and rejects.

And these are just my questions. There are plenty of metaphysical aspects of space and time that I personally really don't care about.

  • 1
    man, sometimes your answers blow my mind. – nir Aug 26 '15 at 22:14
  • A good physical theory is precisely a theory that is physically "well founded" from first philosophical/metaphysical principles. You seem to totally misunderstand what Physics is as a science. – sure Aug 27 '15 at 7:29
  • 1
    @sure A good physical theory is precisely one that captures the data and makes clear claims that go beyond it. A better one is one that allows for a clean and minimal underlying conceptual framework. A basis in philosophy does not help with any of these requirements. You seem to totally misunderstand what Science is as a branch of philosophy. – jobermark Aug 27 '15 at 15:57
  • Theories are not about capturing data, they are about giving the good world-view allowing to explain them. The goal of a theory is to explain, the goal of a model is to predict, but a prediction is not an explanation. Maybe it's time to do more sciences actively rather than learning it through philosophy books @jobermark – sure Aug 27 '15 at 16:24
  • @sure Aside from that all being absolutely impossible, that is a good idea. Scientists know how science works the way ants know where sugar comes from. They know how to search for it on the sidewalk, but could never raise a cane plant. Before handing out insults, try understanding what is being said – jobermark Aug 27 '15 at 16:28

I like @jobermark's answer, but would like to add an anecdote corresponding to this question; it is a conversation with Einstein as told by Carnap, in which Einstein expressed his belief that "there is something essential about the Now which is just outside the realm of science":

Once Einstein said that the problem of the Now worried him seriously. He explained that the experience of the Now means something special for man, something essentially different from the past and the future, but that this important difference does not and cannot occur within physics. That this experience cannot be grasped by science seemed to him a matter of painful but inevitable resignation. I remarked that all that occurs objectively can be described in science; on the one hand the temporal sequence of events is described in physics; and, on the other hand, the peculiarities of man's experiences with respect to time, including his different attitude towards past, present, and future, can be described and (in principle) explained in psychology. But Einstein thought that these scientific descriptions cannot possibly satisfy our human needs; that there is something essential about the Now which is just outside the realm of science. We both agreed that this was not a question of a defect for which science could be blamed, as Bergson thought. I did not wish to press the point, because I wanted primarily to understand his personal attitude to the problem rather than to clarify the theoretical situation. But I definitely had the impression that Einstein's thinking on this point involved a lack of distinction between experience and knowledge. Since science in principle can say all that can be said, there is no unanswerable question left. But though there is no theoretical question left, there is still the common human emotional experience, which is sometimes disturbing for special psychological reasons.

So Einsteins seemed to believe that an important aspect of the concept of time is outside the reach of science, and if it is outside the reach of science then aren't philosophers entitled [*] to contemplate it?

[*]: I mean entitled in the sense of having permission to, not of having a privilege.

  • 1
    Do you know the reference to Carnap concerning this conversation? - The human experience of time, notably of the Now, is a subjective phenomenon not belonging to the realm of physics. Whether Einstein considers psychology a part of science I do not know.- Anyhow, what do you think entitles a philosopher to contemplate topics which are outside the range of physics? For which type of question is the philosopher the expert? – Jo Wehler Aug 27 '15 at 20:25
  • You can find the excerpt with the exact reference to Carnap's biography in the SEP article Being and Becoming in Modern Physics. you ask what entitles a philosopher to contemplate such topics? how about the freedom of thought? if it is a physics question, then the physicist is the expert; if it is not a physics question then it is not the physicist who is the expert; it is someone else, and we can call that someone the philosopher, and he could be the same person as the physicist. – nir Aug 27 '15 at 20:43
  • And of course Einstein's question is better than any of mine... Much simpler, to make the same point. Thanks. Of course, neurology has pretty much decided 'Now' doesn't exist, in a sense described here: philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/26455/9166 – jobermark Aug 27 '15 at 20:46
  • @nir Thanks for the Carnap reference. Probably the whole book is worth reading. - Of course, freedom of thought allows everybody to contemplate every question. - But I assume, when you said entitled, you mean that a philosopher is particularly suitable to contemplate such questions which fall outside the range of science. If that's your opinion my question is: Why do you think so? I assume contemplating such questions is not just your definition of philosopher :-) – Jo Wehler Aug 27 '15 at 21:16
  • @JoWehler, I wrote entitled in the sense of having permission to, not in the sense of having some special privilege; also contemplating such questions is more or less my definition for being a philosopher; I think it is analogous to being an author; anyone can be an author, but few can be as good as Mark Twain or Dostoevsky. at one end of the spectrum you are just scribbling words and at the other you are considered an author by yourself and by society. – nir Aug 27 '15 at 22:01

I'd suggest that the history of science, which generally takes it's starting point from Galileo, is too narrow a purview to take in the many intricate and various relationships between the subject of philosophy and science.

Badiou, for example takes a much wider view; he suggests that the proper perspective in the contemporary situation is that four domains have been established where truth procedures are found: politics, science, love and art; philosophy has no truth procedure of its own but interweaves with these four domains. This in fact is a Socratic gesture when one recalls the Socratic temper in Platos dialogues.

To a certain extent this agrees with your assessment on the discovery of new concepts in a contemporary discipline such as Modern Physics.

However the actual study of Nature going back to the Milesian cosmologists, shows that there were many intricate relationships between that of metaphysics and that of physical thinking - one need only take a careful look through Lucretious De Rerum Natura, or Aristotles Physics to note this; a wider perspective then would be that of the history of ideas.

In a sense, it is anachronistic to say metaphysics has been of no value (and one should note that metaphysics then meant the investigation of the first principles of Nature, on the things that are: causality, space, time, matter and so on; this differs of course with how it's concieved today, though of course there is an affinity).

Were such a thing as a time-machine were possible; and if you were to use such a machine to go back to Hellenic antiquity when Anaximander, Democritus or Aristotle began their philosophical speculations on nature, would you tell them them: 'guys, don't bother with all that speculation on nature, or on change, or on what is real or not - the one or the void; keep quiet and listen attentatively whilst I tell you all the real truths of space, time and matter; the truths we have discovered in the future'.

And then when you climb back into the time machine to come back to the present moment will you find science as it is now? Or will it all have vanished or been corrupted given all that early work was never done; having been convinced it was worthless?

  • To reply just to one of your points, the interesting thought experiment: Yes, I would recommend to Anaximander and Aristotle to inscribe at a university for a study of physics. The same advice I would give to any contemporary adherent of metaphysics. At the end of their study I would ask them: Do you like to continue with metaphysics? The case of Democritus I consider different: He may skip the bachelor and just start his master specializing in atom physics :-) – Jo Wehler Aug 26 '15 at 20:03
  • @jo wehler: well, you've missed the point of the thought experiment; try reading Ray Bradburys A Sound of Thunder; maybe he'll convince you :). – Mozibur Ullah Aug 26 '15 at 20:12
  • And of course Democritus knew his Parmenides, which you'll discover if you decide to look into his De Rerum Natura; and perhaps too a closer study of what is understood by causality in Aristotles Physics might allow you to appreciate the thought experiment a little better :). – Mozibur Ullah Aug 26 '15 at 20:20
  • Do you agree that's pure speculation how physics today would look like in case Anaximander and Aristoteles had not lived? - The little butterfly which now were dead. – Jo Wehler Aug 26 '15 at 20:42
  • @jo wehler: of course it is - how do you intend to run that particular experiment?! Still, it's worth noting that Newton had heavily annotated his copy of De Rerum Natura; one could speculate, perhaps inconclusively, where he had got his notion for the corpuscular theory of light ... – Mozibur Ullah Aug 26 '15 at 20:59

I would like to sum up the different answers from jobermark, nir, quen_tin, Mozibur Ullah and from the many comments of others. In order to state, what I have now learned as my answer to my own question. Thank you for your help.

1) All answers and comments as well as nearly all referenced sources express the opinion that metaphysics is a useful addition to physics when dealing with questions of time and space. The notable exception is a paper by a philosopher of physics who states

Without this one is dabbling in pure mathematics, or worse, metaphysics!

All other answers and comments do not show the slightest doubt about this point.

2) It strikes me, that no one attempts to provide a definition of metaphysics. Often the terms metaphysics and philosophy seem to be used without making any difference. Therefore we have no standard to judge which contributions are metaphysical and which are not.

3) Even when some answers and comments accept the term spacetime, they always try to dissolve it into space and time and often advocate an absolute time. Nobody takes the mathematician and physicist Minkowski seriously, who stated about the new concept of spacetime in his paper from Jahresberichte der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung, Leipzig, 1909:

The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.

After such clarification it is of no help to reiterate the question “But what are really space and time?” The philosophical concepts of time and space originate from our every-day experience. They are valid for the meso-cosmic domain. As Special Relativity tells us, they cannot not be stretched without change into the domain of macro-cosmos.

4) In my opinion, the long and iterated discussion from some comments concerning the role of absolute time and proper time in Special Relativity indicates that such discussion must be led within the mathematical framework of Minkowski space – the usual “free-text” arguments from philosophical discussions are not suitable.

5) As an answer to Rovelli’s wish that

the philosophers that are interested in the scientific description of this world would not confine themselves to commenting and polishing the present fragmentary physical theories; but would take the risk of looking ahead

I would expect new ideas from philosophy, which have not been discussed in the physical community before. Where are these ideas?

6) I conclude for myself that there is no help from metaphysics to discuss the problem of spacetime, rather such discussion is misleading.

Note. I do not consider the answer of @sure. His/her choice of wording and emphasis of his/her personal view fall below the standard I consider necessary for a philosophical discussion.

  • 1
    Your point 5 is just insulting. "Where are these ideas?" Well, Kant, Whitehead and Boltzmann, all got to these questions before the 'physics community'. In the extreme case, that community shamed Boltzmann into stalling work in physics and send him running off to philosophy to find a defensible basis for thermodynamics because atomism was out of sync with that period's notion of space. So your answer is right there. These philosopher's were ahead of the notions available at their respective times. What similar metaphysicians of space are doing right now, none of us knows. – jobermark Aug 31 '15 at 18:57
  • 1
    In the less extreme case, Whitehead's notions of how these might fit together inspired current approaches to unification in physics by looking within intuition and breaking up ingrained notions of mechanism, trained in by classical mechanics. He got referenced as motivation by scientists in his day, so he was head of them. – jobermark Aug 31 '15 at 19:03
  • 1
    Feel free not to consider my remarks. Feel free to consider Isham's remarks about the problem of time in general relativity arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/9210011. What is the difference between a good and a bad physicist? Their different beliefs about the helpfulness of metaphysics to do physics. Feel free to conclude. – sure Aug 31 '15 at 19:05
  • In what sense is this an accurate summary of the views expressed in the various answers and comments here? it's closer to exhibiting your own prejudices; I take it you suppose that no-one here has read that quote by Minkowski? – Mozibur Ullah Aug 31 '15 at 21:36
  • Or are you simply just assuming the role of a white knight in defence of the purity of physics; perhaps you might mention in your summary how you managed to learn the difference between global and local simultaneity? Something I believe I told you in our discussion in chat... – Mozibur Ullah Aug 31 '15 at 21:50

Every concept as important (or primitive) as time and space is subject to metaphysics. For example, I myself consider that time is much more fundamental than space: time is what allows things to change by ordering them, and consequently induces a form of non triviality of existence. Space, on the contrary, seems totally unnecessary to have such non triviality.

One can easily imagine a world without space but time: an abstract mind that can think abstractly does the job (even though it would lack to imagine all geometrical concepts). The reciprocal, on the other hand, would be a dumb picture that has no reason to be because it would lack being non trivial. In particular, the question "why is there time instead of none?" clearly link it with free will: time is here because the universe doesn't yet know where it goes, and is waiting for the guys therein to chose a branch allowed by their present state. In such interactionnist framework, space is understood as an emerging phenomenon (from the successive and past interactions of subjects).

Now, there are also people who believes that space is more fundamental than time, or even that there is no time but just an illusion of it. Such metaphysics are usually deterministic at some level (general relativity is entirely deterministic, while people interpreting QM with multiverses are "globally deterministic" and equalitarists, lacking any authority of "what is" over "what could potentially be"), and deny the existence of freewill of any kind.

That is, your position on free will is necessarily closely related to your metaphysics on time and space. Also, your position on free will is closely related to your position on the "meaning" (in any sense) of existence itself: existence without free will is dumb and meaningless, both for the "things" composing nature, and for nature to realize itself explicitly (it would be simpler if it just didn't realize itself at all), while having freewill usually implies that you believe in some absoluteness of (some) meaning allowing you to chose how to act accordingly to different situations.

PS: I'm pasting an answer I did in physics stackexchange that can be helpful here too.

Now, regardless of what philosophers have to say on space and time, there are also two naive metaphysics physicists share. The substantivalists think that space-time exists by itself, even if its not "made" out of something, and that if you remove all matter from it it is still here (but empty). The relationalists on the other hand, think that space-time is emerging from the relations between matter and that it does not make sense to speak of space-time itself without matter. For substantivalists, space-time has points that "really" do exists, while for relationalists it does not.

I said that these two approach where naive. Why ? If you're a substantivalist, you would have to explain why space-time has points and why, if you do a Leibniz shift of all the matter inside it (that is, you shift all matter by a constant and add some constant velocity with respect to some inertial frame), then the resulting universe we measure is actually indistinguishable from the primer while the configuration of matter is damn different. Is there really a need to believe in points if two different configurations of matter are indiscernible? There is also the hole argument from Einstein in general relativity, but its much subtler (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hole_argument).

Now, if you're a relationalist, you would have to explain why is acceleration absolute ? How comes that even if I'm alone in space-time, without referring to anything near or far away from me, I can know for sure if I'm accelerating (say, rotating) or not ? This shows that space-time is not entirely relational, you can look at Newton's bucket for this deep argument.

What we can say, is that space-time is a weird thing we don't really understand. Yet, it is certain that it has an "inertial structure" that allows you to discriminate what it means to accelerate or to be "not moving" (that is, being inertial or following a geodesics in GR). How is that possible to reconcile the presence of an inertial structure without having points ? Nobody knows right now.

  • All parts of philosophy are subject to the most basic aspect of philosophy. I am quite sure that is no part of what the OP meant to ask. "All is all" is tautological silliness. The question is why we cannot deal adequately with these concepts entirely within the context of physics. To establish that they cannot, you would need some reason why these concepts are not statable and testable as physical theories. – jobermark Aug 27 '15 at 16:10
  • Concepts are not made to be "tested", they are made to give an interpretation scheme of data predicted by models, and measured by experiments (and some thinking). You cannot test the concepts of force alone, nor can you test the concept of mass alone: you need a consistent theory that gives you their relations in order to measure them. – sure Aug 27 '15 at 16:27
  • Evasive nonsense as expected. Picking apart the vocabulary does not answer the question. Why are things (you don't like the word concepts, try positions?) like relationalsim vs substantivism not able to be captured within physics itself and addressed by experimentation. As it is, we are just left with your own lack of imagination as an answer to the question that was actually asked. – jobermark Aug 27 '15 at 17:03
  • Using strong language for emphasis can be easily misconstrued and misunderstood; And not usefully constructive: I edited out the swear word. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 28 '15 at 7:08
  • @jobemark why shouldn't you tell us how empirical confrontation could tell between substantialism and relationalism? And if you manage to tell us how, won't it be by mean of a philosophical argument? So you'll only confirm it was a philosophical question indeed. – Quentin Ruyant Aug 28 '15 at 17:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.