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The Definability of Objective Becoming in Minkowski Spacetime

Rob Clifton and Mark Hogarth
Synthese
Vol. 103, No. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 355-387
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20117406
Page Count: 33
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The Definability of Objective Becoming in Minkowski Spacetime
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Abstract

In his recent article 'On Relativity Theory and Openness of the Future' (1991), Howard Stein proves not only that one can define an objective becoming relation in Minkowski spacetime, but that there is only one possible definition available if one accepts certain natural assumptions about what it is for becoming to occur and for it to be objective. Stein uses the definition supplied by his proof to refute an argument due to Rietdijk (1966, 1976), Putnam (1967) and Maxwell (1985, 1988) that Minkowski spacetime leaves no room for objective becoming whatsoever. However, Stein's proof does not seem to go far enough. By considering only what events have become from the standpoint of any given event, Stein's uniqueness proof fails from the outset to allow for a more general kind of becoming whereby it is understood to occur from the standpoint of events on the particular worldlines followed by observers. This suggests that there may, after all, be more than one way to define objective becoming in Minkowski spacetime once each observer's worldline is allowed to figure in the definition. This suspicion is further aroused by two recent proposals for objective, worldline-dependent becoming due to Peacock (1992) and Muller (1992) who advocate ways of defining becoming that are not equivalent to the definition Stein's uniqueness proof delivers. Nevertheless, we show that Stein's uniqueness proof can be extended in a natural way to cover this more general kind of becoming, provided one does not enrich standard Minkowski spacetime by privileging certain sets of worldlines over others in an unwarranted manner. Thus we aim to reinforce Stein's point that standard Minkowski spacetime does make room for objective becoming, but in essentially only one way, despite arguments and proposals to the contrary.

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