Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Reopening the Hole Argument

Landsman, Klaas (2023) Reopening the Hole Argument. Philosophy of Physics, 1 (1). ISSN 2753-5908

[img] Text (Landsman__Reopening-the-Hole-Argument--published) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB)
Identification Number: 10.31389/pop.12


This expository paper relates the Hole Argument in general relativity (GR) to the well-known theorem of Choquet-Bruhat and Geroch (1969) on the existence and uniqueness of globally hyperbolic solutions to the Einstein field equations. Like the Earman–Norton (1987) version of the Hole Argument (which is originally due to Einstein), this theorem exposes the tension between determinism and some version of spacetime substantivalism. But it seems less vulnerable to the campaign by Weatherall (2018) and followers to close the Hole Argument on the basis of “mathematical practice,” since the theorem only talks about isometries and hence does not make the pointwise identifications via diffeomorphisms that Weatherall objects to. Among other implications of the theorem for the philosophy of GR, we reconsider Butterfield’s (1987) influential definition of determinism. This should be amended if its goal is to express the idea that GR is deterministic in the absence of Cauchy horizons, although its original form does capture the way GR is indeterministic in their presence! Furthermore, in GR isometries come out as gauge symmetries, as do Poincaré transformations in special relativity. Finally, I discuss some implications of the theorem for the philosophy of science: Accepting the determinism horn still requires a choice between Frege-style abstractionism and Hilbert-style structuralism; and, within the latter, between structural realism and empiricist structuralism (which I favor).

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QC Physics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2023 12:57
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 04:19

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics