Interpreting theories without a spacetime

Sebastian De Haro*, Henk W. de Regt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper we have two aims: first, to draw attention to the close connexion between interpretation and scientific understanding; second, to give a detailed account of how theories without a spacetime can be interpreted, and so of how they can be understood. In order to do so, we of course need an account of what is meant by a theory ‘without a spacetime’: which we also provide in this paper. We describe three tools, used by physicists, aimed at constructing interpretations which are adequate for the goal of understanding. We analyse examples from high-energy physics illustrating how physicists use these tools to construct interpretations and thereby attain understanding. The examples are: the ’t Hooft approximation of gauge theories, random matrix models, causal sets, loop quantum gravity, and group field theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-670
Number of pages40
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
Early online date21 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Interpretation
  • Quantum gravity
  • Scientific understanding
  • Spacetime
  • Visualisation


Dive into the research topics of 'Interpreting theories without a spacetime'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this