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Everywhere and EverywhenAdventures in Physics and Philosophy$
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Nick Huggett

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379518

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379518.001.0001

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What Is Space?

What Is Space?

(p.89) 9 What Is Space?
Everywhere and Everywhen

Nick Huggett (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

What, then, is space? It seems strange since it is part of the physical world but unlike other physical things; in some sense it is the ‘place’ where they all are. This chapter first explores how the founders of modern science attempted to solve the problem: Descartes thought that space was just the objects that occupied it; Newton thought it some kind of separate container, ‘absolute space’; Leibniz simply denied that there was such a thing, instead claiming that all motion is relative, ‘relationism’. Newton showed that these philosophical debates have deep significance for physics: his ‘bucket’ thought‐experiment emphasizes that, according to his mechanics, things have motion distinct from their relative motion. The chapter ends by defending relationism against Newton's critique.

Keywords:   Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, absolute space, relationism, Newton's bucket, relational space

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