, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 5-21

Newtonian determinism to branching space-times indeterminism in two moves

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Abstract

“Branching space-times” (BST) is intended as a representation of objective, event-based indeterminism. As such, BST exhibits both a spatio-temporal aspect and an indeterministic “modal” aspect of alternative possible historical courses of events. An essential feature of BST is that it can also represent spatial or space-like relationships as part of its (more or less) relativistic theory of spatio-temporal relations; this ability is essential for the representation of local (in contrast with “global”) indeterminism. This essay indicates how BST might be seen to grow out of Newton’s deterministic and non-relativistic theory by two independent moves: (1) Taking account of indeterminism, and (2) attending to spatio-temporal relationships in a spirit derived from Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Since (1) and (2) are independent, one can see that there is room for four theories: Newtonian determinism, branching time indeterminism, relativistic determinism, and (finally) branching space-times indeterminism.

This is an updated and mildly revised version of Belnap (2007a), with the kind permission of Mentis Verlag.