Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 223–241 | Cite as

The Structure of Causal Sets

  • Christian Wüthrich


More often than not, recently popular structuralist interpretations of physical theories leave the central concept of a structure insufficiently precisified. The incipient causal sets approach to quantum gravity offers a paradigmatic case of a physical theory predestined to be interpreted in structuralist terms. It is shown how employing structuralism lends itself to a natural interpretation of the physical meaning of causal set theory. Conversely, the conceptually exceptionally clear case of causal sets is used as a foil to illustrate how a mathematically informed rigorous conceptualization of structure serves to identify structures in physical theories. Furthermore, a number of technical issues infesting structuralist interpretations of physical theories such as difficulties with grounding the identity of the places of highly symmetrical physical structures in their relational profile and what may resolve these difficulties can be vividly illustrated with causal sets.


Causal set theory Quantum spacetime Structural realism Structure 



I wish to thank Fay Dowker for discussions, and Craig Callender and two anonymous referees for comments on an earlier draft. At my own peril, I have not heeded all their advice. This project has been funded in part by the American Council of Learned Societies through a Collaborative Research Fellowship, the University of California through a UC President’s Fellowship in the Humanities, and the University of California, San Diego through an Arts and Humanities Initiative Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA

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