Skip to main content
Log in

Relational Structures of Fundamental Theories

  • Published:
Foundations of Physics Aims and scope Submit manuscript


General relativity and quantum mechanics have both revealed the relativity of certain notions that were previously thought to be absolute. I clarify the precise sense in which these theories are relational, and I argue that the various aspects of relationality pertain to the same movement in the progress of physical theories.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. The original article of Wigner dates from 1961 [5].


  1. Rovelli, C.: ‘Localization’ in Quantum Field Theory: How Much of QFT is Compatible with What we Know About Space-Time? Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1999)

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  2. Barbour, J.B.: The Discovery of Dynamics. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Rovelli, C.: GPS observables in general relativity. Phys. Rev. D 65(4), 044017 (2002). (arXiv:gr-qc/0110003)

    Article  ADS  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  4. Everett, H.: ‘Relative state’ formulation of quantum mechanics. Rev. Mod. Phys. 29(3), 454 (1957).

    Article  ADS  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  5. Wigner, P.E.: Remarks on the mind-body question. In: Good, I.J. (ed.) The Scientists Speculates, pp. 248–302. Heinemann, London (1961)

    Google Scholar 


  7. M. Waegell and K. J. McQueen, Reformulating Bell’s theorem: the search for a truly local quantum theory (2020), arXiv:2003.03395

  8. Rovelli, C.: Relational quantum mechanics. Int. J. Theor. Phys. 35(8), 1637 (1996). (arXiv:quant-ph/9609002)

    Article  MathSciNet  MATH  Google Scholar 

  9. A. Spratt,

  10. B. Wong,\_wong\_31

  11. Giacomini, F., Castro-Ruiz, E., Brukner, Č: Quantum mechanics and the covariance of physical laws in quantum reference frames. Nat. Commun. 10(1), 494 (2019).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Vanrietvelde, A., Hoehn, P.A., Giacomini, F., Castro-Ruiz, E.: A change of perspective: switching quantum reference frames via a perspective-neutral framework. Quantum 4, 225 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. de la Hamette, A.-C., Galley, T.D.: Quantum reference frames for general symmetry groups. Quantum 4, 367 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


I thank the organisers of the QISS conference in Hong Kong in January 2020 for giving me the opportunity to deepen and present the ideas contained in this paper. This publication was made possible through the support of the ID# 61466 Grant from the John Templeton Foundation, as part of the Quantum Information Structure of Spacetime (QISS) project ( The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pierre Martin-Dussaud.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Martin-Dussaud, P. Relational Structures of Fundamental Theories. Found Phys 51, 24 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: