On the fragmentalist interpretation of special relativity

Philosophical Studies 177 (1):21-37 (2020)
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Abstract

Fragmentalism was first introduced by Kit Fine in his ‘Tense and Reality’. According to fragmentalism, reality is an inherently perspectival place that exhibits a fragmented structure. The current paper defends the fragmentalist interpretation of the special theory of relativity, which Fine briefly considers in his paper. The fragmentalist interpretation makes room for genuine facts regarding absolute simultaneity, duration and length. One might worry that positing such variant properties is a turn for the worse in terms of theoretical virtues because such properties are not involved in physical explanations and hence theoretically redundant. It will be argued that this is not right: if variant properties are indeed instantiated, they will also be involved in straightforward physical explanations and hence not explanatorily redundant. Hofweber and Lange, in their ‘Fine’s Fragmentalist Interpretation of Special Relativity’, object that the fragmentalist interpretation is in tension with the right explanation of the Lorentz transformations. It will be argued that their objection targets an inessential aspect of the fragmentalist framework and fails to raise any serious problem for the fragmentalist interpretation of special relativity.

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Martin A. Lipman
Leiden University

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