Chapter

Observationally Indistinguishable Spacetimes: A Challenge for Any Inductivist

John D. Norton

in Philosophy of Science Matters

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738625
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894642 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738625.003.0013
Observationally Indistinguishable Spacetimes: A Challenge for Any Inductivist

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Results on the observational indistinguishability of spacetimes demonstrate the impossibility of determining by deductive inference which is our spacetime, no matter how extensive a portion of the spacetime is observed. These results do not illustrate an underdetermination of theory by evidence, since they make no decision between competing theories and they make little contact with the inductive considerations that must ground such a decision. Rather, these results express a variety of indeterminism in which a specification of the observable past always fails to fix the remainder of a spacetime. This form of indeterminism is more troubling than the familiar indeterminism of quantum theory. The inductive inferences that can discriminate among the different spacetime extensions of the observed past are here called “opaque,” which means that we cannot readily see the warrant that lies behind them.

Keywords: induction; spacetime; observational indistinguishability; underdetermination thesis; indeterminism

Chapter.  5095 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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