PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
The metaphysics of quantum gravity : a causal approach
Esfeld M.-A., Bigaj T.
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des lettres
Faculté des lettresUniversité de LausanneUNIL - DorignyAnthropole - bureau 2049CH-1015 LausanneAnthropole - bureau 2049
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The dissertation investigates some relevant metaphysical issues arising in the context of spacetime theories. In particular, the inquiry focuses on general relativity and canonical quantum gravity. A formal definition of spacetime theory is proposed and, against this framework, an analysis of the notions of general covariance, symmetry and background independence is performed. It is argued that many conceptual issues in general relativity and canonical quantum gravity derive from putting excessive emphasis on general covariance as an ontological prin-ciple. An original metaphysical position grounded in scientific essential- ism and causal realism (weak essentialism) is developed and defended. It is argued that, in the context of general relativity, weak essentialism supports spacetime substantivalism. It is also shown that weak essentialism escapes arguments from metaphysical underdetermination by positing a particular kind of causation, dubbed geometric. The proposed interpretive framework is then applied to Bohmian mechanics, pointing out that weak essentialism nicely fits into this theory. In the end, a possible Bohmian implementation of loop quantum gravity is considered, and such a Bohmian approach is interpreted in a geometric causal fashion. Under this interpretation, Bohmian loop quantum gravity straightforwardly commits us to an ontology of elementary extensions of space whose evolution is described by a non-local law. The causal mechanism underlying this evolution clarifies many conceptual issues related to the emergence of classical spacetime from the quantum regime. Although there is as yet no fully worked out physical theory of quantum gravity, it is argued that the proposed approach sets up a standard that proposals for a serious ontology in this field should meet.
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