Classical Mechanics is not Pointilliste, and can be Perdurantist

Jeremy Butterfield

Abstract: Classical mechanics has been mistaken to support pointillisme. This is the doctrine that a physical theory's fundamental quantities can be defined at points of space or of spacetime, and represent intrinsic properties of such points; so that properties of spatial or spatiotemporal regions are determined by the point-by-point facts. But in fact classical mechanics is not pointilliste. This conclusion bears on the metaphysical debate whether persistence over time should be understood as the selfsame object being at two different times (`endurance'), or as different stages of the object being at the two times (`perdurance'). I argue that once we reject pointillisme, we can endorse perdurance as an account of the persistence in classical mechanics.