Relativity and the A-theory

In Eleanor Knox & Alastair Wilson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Physics. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 86–98 (2021)
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The special theory of relativity (STR) is widely supposed to be in tension with A-theories of time, those giving special significance to the present moment. A-theories are diverse in the features they regard as distinctive of the present, but all agree that there is an absolute fact of the matter about which events have the feature of presentness. Famously, the standard notion of simultaneity operationalised within the theory of relativity is not absolute. If A-theorists accept relativistic physics, they must either refine their A-theory and sever joint presentness from simultaneity (‘conciliatory’ responses to the problem), or supplement standard relativity by adding further spacetime structure that grounds a relation of absolute simultaneity (‘supplementing’ responses). This chapter considers the prospects for such approaches, concluding that while there is no knock-down argument from relativity against the A-theory, attempts to marry the A-theory with STR are more trouble than they are worth.

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Antony Eagle
University of Adelaide


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