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Physical Relativity from a Functionalist Perspective

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Early online date9 Oct 2017
Accepted/In press23 Sep 2017
E-pub ahead of print9 Oct 2017
PublishedAug 2019


King's Authors


This paper looks at the relationship between spacetime functionalism and Harvey Brown's dynamical relativity. One popular way of reading and extending Brown's programme in the literature rests on viewing his position as a version of relationism. But a kind of spacetime functionalism extends the project in a different way, by focussing on the account Brown gives of the role of spacetime in relativistic theories. It is then possible to see this as giving a functional account of the concept of spacetime which may be applied to theories that go beyond relativity. This paper explores the way in which both the relationist project and the functionalist project relate to Brown's work, despite being incompatible. Ultimately, these should not be seen as two conflicting readings of Brown, but two different directions in which to take his project.

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