During the last few weeks, NewApps has hosted several inter-connected discussions about the relationship between physics, metaphyisics, and philosophy of physics (and their histories) [see here and here as well as Jody Azzouni's intervention here. Azzouni's is a response to a forthcoming piece by Arntzenius & Dorr.]
Abe Stone has written a very provocative set of reflections on Azzouni and the whole dialectic here. There is a lot going in Stone, but his core point is that Azzouni's use of “actual physical probing,” begs the question. Now, there are two issues here.
First, in his piece Azzouni had offered two examples (one "a non-scientific example" and another "more scientific" [neither pretending to be genuine scientific]). Now the nub of these examples is this: the first example focuses on how the Arntzenius & Dorr technique imposing internal structure on objects, while the second examples explains why imposing structure on the spacetime between objects is objectionable. [I am partially quoting earlier private correspondence with Azzouni.] But what matters about the examples is not a metaphysical commitment to "big or little balls" (and anything that deviated from them being "spooky") as Stone suggests, but rather that they bring out the way in which Arntzenius & Dorr impose extra structure that does not seem capable of guiding future science (and is unmotivated by either existing science or by what has come to be known as 'nominalism'). [I apologize to Robbie Williams by not couching these comments in terms of his very interesting analysis of the dialectic: ]
Second, if I understand him rightly, Stone believes by contrast that the topological structure that Arntzenius and Dorr introduce can be amenable to (suitably re-interpreted and transformed) physical theory. And if I understand him rightly Stone thinks such philosophical theorizing is both desirable and necessary for the progress of science (something that brings him close to Michael Friedman's dynamics of reason, I think--but maybe I am being misled by their shared Kantianism) if it can help us think anew about what the nature of the empirical is.
I agree with the spirits of Stone's remarks here (I am all for letting a thousand flowers bloom in such matter), but it would be nice to know in what sense the Arntzenius/Dorr approach does indeed help us think afresh about what physical probing is, or can be.