As below, so before: ‘synchronic’ and ‘diachronic’ conceptions of spacetime emergence

Synthese 198 (8):7279-7307 (2020)
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Typically, a less fundamental theory, or structure, emerging from a more fundamental one is an example of synchronic emergence. A model emerging from a prior model upon which it nevertheless depends is an example of diachronic emergence. The case of spacetime emergent from quantum gravity and quantum cosmology challenges these two conceptions of emergence. Here, I propose two more-general conceptions of emergence, analogous to the synchronic and diachronic ones, but which are potentially applicable to the case of emergent spacetime: an inter-level, hierarchical conception, and an intra-level, ‘flat’ conception. I then explore whether, and how, these ideas may be applicable in the case of several putative examples of relativistic spacetime emergent from the non-spatiotemporal structures described by different approaches to quantum gravity, and of spacetime emergent from a non-spatiotemporal ‘big bang’ state according to different examples of quantum cosmology.

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Karen Crowther
University of Oslo


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