Probabilistic Causation in a Spacetime Framework


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Title Probabilistic Causation in a Spacetime Framework
Period 01 / 2010 - 12 / 2012
Status Completed
Research number OND1337368
Data Supplier NWO


This project investigates formulations of relativistic causation in a spacetime framework, using the logical and formal means associated with analytic philosophy of science and theoretical physics. Its aim is to extend the existing theories of probabilistic causation by requiring a spacetime structure at the heart of the theory. Further, it aims to give sound relativistic causality conditions applicable in all of physics, thus for physical theories with either a fixed or dynamical background spacetime, and that can even be stochastic, such as quantum gravity. The research falls in between analytic philosophy of science and natural philosophy on the one hand, and foundations of physics and theoretical physics on the other. The research focuses on developing a theory of causation suitable for modern physics, which, up to now, seems to contradict any reasonable, physically informed, space-time formulation of causality. The first part of the research will consist in developing a theory of probabilistic relativistic causality for a fixed background spacetime, after which the step to a dynamical background spacetime will be made. In particular, if some kind of causality principle can indeed be applied in quantum gravity theory it has to present us with indeterministic causal structure. Therefore, this research first studies the problems involved in defining a stochastic causal principle for background-independent theories, combining it with general covariance. It then tries to make the move from the stochastic to the quantal framework within the so-called causal set program for quantum gravity. This will contribute to the task of providing a thorough conceptual basis for any future physics. Next to these theoretical and foundational investigations of physical theories, the research intends to develop a physically informed theory of probabilistic causation and compare this to traditional theories of probabilistic causation in analytic philosophy and philosophy of science.

Abstract (NL)

Een kernvraag in de wetenschap is het verkrijgen van inzicht in causale relaties. Dit wetenschapsfilosofische project tracht een kanstheoretische visie op causale relaties te ontwikkelen binnen een raamwerk van ruimte en tijd. Het toepassingsgebied zal onze fundamentele fysische theorie├źn omvatten, waaronder de kwantummechanica, de kwantumveldentheorie en de relativiteitstheorie.

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Project leader Dr. M.P. Seevinck

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