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Spacetime: Fundamental or Emergent?

Bonn, 26 – 28 October 2017

Poster_thumb This International Workshop was organized as an event of the DFG-funded research unit Inductive Metaphysics. Here you can find the call for participation, the flyer with the program and some practical information, and the abstracts.

Spacetime or spatiotemporal relations have traditionally been considered as perfect candidates for fundamental entities or structures of reality. However, in modern physics and philosophy this general agreement has been challenged by, for example, physical theories that try to recover spacetime as an emergent structure resulting in the current debate on the (non-)fundamentality of spacetime. With respect to this debate, our workshop attempts to explore three central aspects: First, what kind of entity is spacetime? Is it essentially a geometrical entity, as the received view has it, or just a physical field that can be described by geometrical means? Is that field grounding other physical fields, or is it rather one among many? Second, this naturally evokes the question of what is involved in claims of fundamentality of physical entities, and thus is connected to a current debate in the metaphysics of science. We suggest that the issue of fundamentality or emergence is where the general metaphysical status of scientific entities is reflected within physics. Third, the foregoing topics merge in the concrete question of what different approaches to quantum gravity, like loop quantum gravity, the spin-2 approach, or string theory, may reveal about the status of spacetime. Is spacetime an emergent entity as most approaches seem to suggest? If so, which concept of emergence will apply? We suggest that these questions indicate how closely metaphysical issues are entangled with the current development of physics.

Overall, 45 participants attended the workshop. Seven graduate students succesfully applied for a travel grant (up to 200 EUR).

Universitätsclub Bonn, Konviktstr. 9, 53113 Bonn


Andreas Bartels
Kian Salimkhani (ksalimkhani[at]



During the workshop, the following lectures have been given.Group

Karen Crowther:
Fundamentality and emergence in quantum gravity

Richard Dawid:
String Theory, Empirical Equivalence and Fundamentality

Neil Dewar:
Noether's theorems from the perspective of general covariance

Michael Esfeld:
An argument for fundamental distance relations*

Dennis Lehmkuhl:
Is it possible for spacetime to be neither fundamental nor emergent? Learning from Einstein’s path towards field realism*

J. Brian Pitts:
What Represents Space-time and What Follows for Substantivalism vs. Relationalism and for Gravitational Energy?*Group-2

James Read:
On miracles and spacetime

Kian Salimkhani:
Lorentz invariance and the non-fundamentality of spacetime

Alastair Wilson:
Dependence without spacetime

Christian Wüthrich:
Spacetime is as spacetime does


* For the password, please contact ksalimkhani[at]