International Conference on the Ontology of Spacetime


Hermann Minkowski

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Public Lecture

New Society

International Society for the Advanced Study of Spacetime

The formation of an International Society for the Advanced Study of Spacetime will be discussed during the conference. Unlike the International Society for the Study of Time (founded in 1966 and dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of time) the new society will adopt a narrower and strictly scientific approach by uniting and coordinating the research on different aspects of the nature of spacetime by physicists, mathematicians, philosophers of science, and philosophers.

What warrants the creation of one more society are at least two facts: (i) almost a century after Hermann Minkowski united space and time into an indivisible four-dimensional (4D) entity the question "What is the nature of spacetime?" remains open, and (ii) physicists and philosophers involved in research on spacetime practically do not communicate on a regular basis. As a result:

  • Most physicists and especially relativists answer the question "What is the dimensionality of the world according to relativity?" by saying "Of course, the world is 4D". But when asked about the implications of such a 4D world (not a 4D mathematical space), they start to realize that relativity poses serious interpretive problems. And it is evident that the issue of the ontological status of Minkowski (or any relativistic) spacetime should be addressed before the question of the nature of the multi-dimensional spaces of modern physics.

  • Philosophers have different views on how Minkowski spacetime should be interpreted including regarding the Minkowski world of events as 4D, but the physical objects as 3D. However, since the concept "event" is defined in relativity as an object, a field point, or a space point at a given moment of time one cannot talk about events and objects separately. This means that the 4D world of events (Minkowski spacetime) does not contain 3D objects by definition.

A permanent and constructive dialog between physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers will undoubtedly boost the research on the nature of spacetime.

The Society can regularly hold conferences every two or three years.

Any comments and suggestions concerning the proposed Society sent to a member of the Program Committee will be greatly appreciated.

Program Committee:

Craig Callender (University of California, San Diego)
Dennis Dieks (Utrecht University)
Mauro Dorato (University of Rome Three)
Vesselin Petkov (Concordia University)
Steven Savitt (University of British Columbia)