From the "Preface":
This book concerns the philosophy of space and time, and its connection with the evolution of modern physics. As these are already the subjects of many excellent books and papers– the literature of the “absolute versus relational” debate– the production of yet another book may seem to require some excuse. I don't claim to defend a novel position in that controversy, or to defend one of the standard positions in a novel way. Still less do I pretend to offer a comprehensive survey of such positions and how they stand up in light of the latest developments in physics. My excuse is, rather, that I hope to address an entirely different set of philosophical problems. The problems I have in mind certainly have deep connections with the problems of absolute and relative space, time, and motion, and the roles that they play, or might play, in the history and future of physics. But they can’t be glossed by the standard questions on spacetime metaphysics: Is motion absolute or relative? Are space and time substantival or relational? Rather, they are problems concerning how any knowledge of space, time, and motion—or spatiotemporal relations—is possible in the first place. How do we come to identify aspects of our physical knowledge as knowledge of space and time? How do we come to understand features of our experience as indicating spatiotemporal relations? How do the laws of physics reveal something to us about the nature of space and time?
....[T]his book seeks to present some fairly familiar developments from a completely unfamiliar perspective, as part of a remarkably concerted and coherent philosophical effort—an effort to analyze, from a series of critical philosophical standpoints, the evolving relationship between our physical assumptions and our knowledge of space and time. Early 20th century philosophers had a difficult time seeing the history from this perspective, because they saw the philosophy of space and time as essentially an argument against Newton, that is, as a struggle of modern epistemology against old-fashioned metaphysics. What this book attempts to show is that the best philosophy of space and time—the part that has been decisive in the evolution of physics—has been a connected series of arguments that began with Newton, arguments about how physics must define its conceptions of space and time in empirical terms. By viewing the history in this way, my book proposes to shed some light on other questions that were puzzling to 20th-century philosophy of science: above all, how the transformation of fundamental concepts, like those of space, time, and motion, can be understood as a rational development.
From the "Introduction":
....[T]he history I will present of the theories of space, time, and motion since Newton...is not, therefore, another retelling of the story of the absolute-relational controversy. Rather, it is an account of how concepts of absolute and relative space, time, and motion have come to play the parts that they play in physical theory, and the impact that the construction, refinement, and critical analysis of these concepts has had on the conceptual development of physics. It is therefore no less than the story of the movement of physics toward a kind of philosophical maturity—toward a state of clarity in fundamental concepts, and of self-consciousness concerning the ways in which fundamental concepts acquire their empirical meaning.