Super-Relationism: Combining Eliminativism about Objects and Relationism about Spacetime

Philosophical Studies 173 (8):2151-2172 (2016)
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Abstract

I will introduce and motivate eliminativist super-relationism. This is the conjunction of relationism about spacetime and eliminativism about material objects. According to the view, the universe is a big collection of spatio-temporal relations and natural properties, and no substance (material or spatio-temporal) exists in it. The view is original since eliminativism about material objects, when understood as including not only ordinary objects like tables or chairs but also physical particles, is generally taken to imply substantivalism about spacetime: if properties are directly instantiated by spacetime without the mediation of material objects, then, surely, spacetime has to be a substance. After introducing briefly the two debates about spacetime (§1) and material objects (§2), I will present Schaffer's super-substantivalism (§3), the conjunction of substantivalism about spacetime and eliminativism about material objects at the fundamental level. I shall then expose and discuss the assumption from which the implication from eliminativism to substantivalism is drawn, and discuss the compatibility of eliminativism with relationism: if spacetime is not a substance, and if material objects are not real, how are we to understand the instantiation of properties (§4)? And what are the relata of spatio-temporal relations (§5)? I then show that each argument in favor of super-substantivalism offered by Schaffer also holds for super-relationism (§6) and examine several metaphysical consequences of the view (§7). I conclude that both super-substantivalism and super-relationism are compatible with Schaffer's priority monism (§8).

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Baptiste Le Bihan
University of Geneva

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