John Earman (born 1942) is a philosopher of physics. He is an emeritus professor in the History and Philosophy of Science department at the University of Pittsburgh. He has also taught at UCLA, the Rockefeller University, and the University of Minnesota, and was president of the Philosophy of Science Association. He received his PhD from Princeton in 1968. Earman is on the Editorial Boards of Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics and Physics in Perspective.
The hole argument
Earman has notably contributed to debate about the "hole argument". The hole argument was invented for slightly different purposes by Albert Einstein late in 1913 as part of his quest for the general theory of relativity (GTR). It was revived and reformulated in the modern context by John3 (a short form for the "three Johns": John Earman, John Stachel, and John Norton).
With the GTR, the traditional debate between absolutism and relationalism has been shifted to whether or not spacetime is a substance, since the GTR largely rules out the existence of, e.g., absolute positions. The "hole argument" offered by John Earman is a powerful argument against manifold substantialism.
This is a technical mathematical argument but can be paraphrased as follows:
With use of this function we can construct two mathematical models, where the second is generated by applying to proper elements of the first, such that the two models are identical prior to the time , where is a time function created by a foliation of spacetime, but differ after .
These considerations show that, since substantialism allows the construction of holes, that the universe must, on that view, be indeterministic. Which, Earman argues, is a case against substantialism, as the case between determinism or indeterminism should be a question of physics, not of our commitment to substantialism.
- A Primer on Determinism
- World Enough and Spacetime: Absolute vs. Relational Theories of Space and Time
- Bayes or Bust: A Critical Examination of Bayesian Confirmation Theory
- Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes
- Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles
Works in progress
- "Do the Laws of Physics Forbid the Operation of a Time Machine?" (with Christopher Smeenk).
- "The Emperor's New Theory: The Semantic/Models View of Theories."
- "Sharpening the Electromagnetic Arrow(s) of Time."
- "Pruning Some Branches from 'Branching Spacetimes'."
- "Models for an Evolving Block Universe."