Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Why Denying Eternalism Forces You To Accept Brute Facts



A few years ago when I was completely obsessed with the philosophy of time I read many papers for and against presentism and eternalism. In one paper called Presentism and Relativity philosopher Yuri Balashov and physicist Michel Janssen write that in order to maintain presentism one has to lose the explanatory power of the "space-time interpretation" or B-theory (which is eternalism). Lorentz invariance becomes an accidental property "shared by all laws effectively governing systems in Newtonian space and time." I've written in the past that without eternalism length contraction in special relativity becomes inexplicable. It "just is" that way with no apparent explanation. Balashov and Janssen argue it's not the only thing that becomes inexplicable.

In the neo-Lorentzian interpretation it is, in the final analysis, an unexplained coincidence that the laws effectively governing different sorts of matter all share the property of Lorentz invariance, which originally appeared to be nothing but a peculiarity of the laws governing electromagnetic fields. In the space-time interpretation this coincidence is explained by tracing the Lorentz invariance of all these different laws to a common origin: the space-time structure posited in this interpretation (Janssen 1995, 2002).[22]
The argument can be made in different ways. Einstein made it in the opening paragraph of the 1905 paper with the help of his famous magnet-conductor example: for the current measured in the conductor only the relative motion of magnet and conductor matters, but in Lorentz’s theory the case with the magnet at rest is very different from the case with the conductor at rest. No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.” We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus the neo-Lorentzian interpretation. The argument is not iron-clad and may still be outweighed by the needs of theology or quantum mechanics. But it is on a par with, say, the argument for preferring Darwinian evolution over special creation. That is good enough for us. (emphasis mine)

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