Holes in Spacetime: Some Neglected Essentials

Journal of Philosophy 116 (7):353-389 (2019)
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Abstract

The hole argument purports to show that all spacetime theories of a certain form are indeterministic, including the General Theory of Relativity. The argument has given rise to an industry of searching for a metaphysics of spacetime that delivers the right modal implications to rescue determinism. In this paper, I first argue that certain prominent extant replies to the hole argument—namely, those that appeal to an essentialist doctrine about spacetime—fail to deliver the requisite modal implications. As part of my argument, I show that threats to determinism of the sort brought out by the hole argument are more general than has heretofore been recognized. I then use these results to propose a novel essentialist doctrine about spacetime that successfully rescues determinism, what I call sufficiency metric essentialism. However, I go on to argue that once we realize what an essentialist doctrine about spacetime must look like in order to address the hole argument, we should reject all such doctrines, because they can't fulfill their ambition of improving on standard modal replies to the argument. I close by suggesting some lessons for future work on spacetime and the metaphysics of physics more broadly, and also drawing some general morals for contemporary metaphysics, in particular about (i) whether essence can be used to articulate a precise structuralist doctrine, and (ii) the relationship between essence and modality.

Author's Profile

Trevor Teitel
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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