This paper argues against the proposal to draw from current research into a physical theory of quantum gravity the ontological conclusion that spacetime or spatiotemporal relations are not fundamental. As things stand, the status of this proposal is like the one of all the other claims about radical changes in ontology that were made during the development of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. However, none of these claims held up to scrutiny as a consequence of the physics once the theory was established and a serious discussion about its ontology had begun. Furthermore, the paper argues that if spacetime is to be recovered through a functionalist procedure in a theory that admits no fundamental spacetime, standard functionalism cannot serve as a model: all the known functional definitions are definitions in terms of a causal role for the motion of physical objects and hence presuppose spatiotemporal relations.
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I’m grateful to the organizers and the participants of the workshop on “Spacetime functionalism” in Geneva in March 2018 for their feedback as well as to two anonymous referees for very helpful comments on the first version of this paper.
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Esfeld, M. Against the disappearance of spacetime in quantum gravity. Synthese 199 (Suppl 2), 355–369 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02168-y
- Quantum gravity
- Quantum mechanics
- Quantum field theory
- General relativity theory
- Measurement problem
- Primitive ontology
- Bohmian mechanics
- Shape dynamics