On the ontological status of space-time: Scientific realism and geometrical explanation
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The ontological status of space and time has long been a matter of discussion among philosophers, a discussion informed by relevant physical theory. Is space a concrete entity or substance, over and above relations among material bodies, or is space reducible to such relations, without ontic or explanatory loss? This work offers a defense of substantivalism, or an affirmative answer to the first question. The main focus of this project concerns General Relativity, insofar as we find a kind of geometrical explanation therein, where the shape of a concrete space plays a key explanatory role with regard to the motion of material bodies. The history of commentary upon this issue, from Newton and Leibniz to current work on quantum gravity, is brought to bear in order to situate this defense in its proper place, to show that the relationalist challenge falls short of comparable power and plausibility, and to reveal the continual interplay between philosophy and science with regard to this issue. The stance adopted in this work then opens up certain possibilities and paths for future research in the philosophy of science, with regard to understanding general relationships between the formal-theoretic and the physical, for example, as well as in current theoretical physics where conceptual issues concerning space and time have once again come to the forefront.