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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?

Chapter:
(p.89) 9 What Is Space?
Source:
Everywhere and Everywhen
Author(s):

Nick Huggett (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379518.003.0009

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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