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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Philosophy

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Bradford Skow

Second Advisor

Phillip Bricker

Third Advisor

Christopher Meacham

Fourth Advisor

Lorenzo Sorbo

Subject Categories

Metaphysics | Philosophy of Science

Abstract

All physical theories, from classical Newtonian mechanics to relativistic quantum field theory, entail propositions concerning the geometric structure of spacetime. To give an example, the general theory of relativity entails that spacetime is curved, smooth, and four-dimensional. In this dissertation, I take the structural commitments of our theories seriously and ask: how is such structure instantiated in the physical world? Mathematically, a property like 'being curved' is perfectly well-defined insofar as we know what it means for a mathematical space to be curved. But what could it mean to say that the physical world is curved? Call this the problem of physical geometry.

The problem of physical geometry is a plea for foundations--a request for fundamental truth conditions for physical-geometric propositions. My chief claim is that only a substantival theory of spacetime--a theory according to which spacetime is an entity in its own right, existing over and above the material content of the world--can supply the necessary truth conditions.

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