Isolation, not locality

Michael Hicks, Heather Demarest

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There is a long tradition of preferring local theories to ones that posit lawful or causal influence at a spacetime distance. In this paper, we argue against this preference. We argue that nonlocality is scientifically unobjectionable and that nonlocal theories can be known. Scientists can gather evidence for them and confirm them in much the same way that they do for local theories. We think these observations point to a deeper constraint on scientific theorizing and experimentation: the (quasi-) isolation of causal or lawful influence. We argue that this requirement ought to replace the locality desideratum in science. We then explore the possibility that the order of explanation has been reversed: perhaps it is isolatable influence that determines what counts as local in the first place.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
Early online date28 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Sept 2020


  • Philosophy of physics
  • locality
  • philosophy of science
  • physics


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