Philosophy of Physics Seminar (Thursday - Week 6, MT22)

Philosophy of Physics

In the talk, I flesh out and advocate conventionalism about physical geometry as a nuanced response to the challenges of empirical underdetermination of geometry that takes into account the specific role and peculiarities of geometry in physical theorising. Drawing on and updating ideas in Poincaré, I highlight the advantages of conventionalism over other stances in the realist responses (explanationism, structural realism or entity realism). A cornucopia of examples from both relativistic and non-relativistic gravitational physics can be adduced to which a conventionalist can point to make her case. These examples illustrate that the coexistence of empirically equivalent theories that postulate mutually incompatible underlying geometries (and that, on a natural stance towards theory individuation, count as distinct theories, rather than reformulations of the same theory) is a real challenge at the heart of modern gravitational physics -- a challenge for which conventionalism, as I conceive of it, proffers a convincing and sophisticated response.


Philosophy of Physics Seminar Convenor for TT22: Simon Saunders  | Philosophy of Physics Group Website