Three denials of time in the interpretation of canonical gravity

Karim P Y Thébault*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The analysis of the temporal structure of canonical general relativity and the connected interpretational questions with regard to the role of time within the theory both rest upon the need to respect the fundamentally dual role of the Hamiltonian constraints found within the formalism. Any consistent philosophical approach towards the theory must pay dues to the role of these constraints in both generating dynamics, in the context of phase space, and generating unphysical symmetry transformations, in the context of a hypersurface embedded within a solution. A first denial of time in the terms of a position of reductive temporal relationalism can be shown to be troubled by failure on the first count, and a second denial in the terms of Machian temporal relationalism can be found to be hampered by failure on the second. A third denial of time, consistent with both of the Hamiltonian constraints roles, is constituted by the implementation of a scheme for constructing observables in terms of correlations and leads to a radical Parmenidean timelessness. The motivation for and implications of each of these three denials are investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-294
Number of pages18
JournalStudies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Canonical gravity
  • Constraints
  • Observables
  • Problem of time
  • Relationalism
  • Symmetry


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