Space and its dis-contents : new directions for intrinsicality, substance and dimensionality
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This dissertation examines key areas in ontology through the intersection of metaphysics and physics. I argue that modern physics gives us good cause to look for new metaphysical models in place of the classical conceptions of ‘object’ and ‘space’. Part I addresses the object in itself, wherein I argue that physics, along with various philosophical concerns, encourages us to re-evaluate the intrinsic/ extrinsic distinction in favour of new classifications. In particular, I use conclusions of relativity theory and the acquisition of mass via the Higgs field as indications of the inadequacy of intrinsicality, concluding that the distinction is more trouble than it is worth. Part II examines the intersection of objects and space, wherein I criticise substantivalism and promote singular fundamental ontologies like relationalism and supersubstantivalism. I examine phenomena like spatial expansion and field theory as well as separability issues more generally to emphasise the lack of rationale for a substance dualism of ‘object material’ and ‘space material’. I also challenge the coherence of substantivalism’s ‘occupation relation’ and the ease of interpreting mathematical models into physical terms. I conclude that, again, the classical notion of ‘object’ and its substantival framework are misplaced and should be put aside in favour of developing monistic ontologies. Part III looks at space in itself and the properties commonly attributed to it. I explore issues of separability using key experiments, and what makes spaces ‘physically real’, before an extended examination of dimensions and dimensionality, highlighting the confusion physicists express toward such a ubiquitous concept in modern physical theories. I also explore how we use dimensions and reasons for adopting realist or instrumentalist approaches toward them, arguing that much more work should be focused on this area. I conclude with ways in which physics motivates new metaphysical models and suggest improvements for future methodological partnerships.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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