Lee Smolin has submitted "The case for background independence", hep-th/0507235. Background independence is definitely an interesting topic in philosophy of physics. Some of Lee's points can be agreed with, for example:
- It is desirable to find a background independent formulation of string/M-theory
- Such a formulation would likely to answer the questions whether the landscape approach to string/M-theory is correct; why it's not; what it should be replaced with.
These are the anthropic topics and it has been described many times why I agree with Smolin and others. However, I can't agree with the other points about background independence, especially Lee's opinions that
- We should try to revive Leibniz's relationism or Mach's principle
- Philosophical reasoning about background independence is relevant for derivation of physics of a particular background
- It's better if your theory contains no space (possibly not even an emergent one) rather than if it does
- Quantum mechanics should be replaced by something else that goes "beyond it"
and many others that will be discussed in this text.
See also: Background independence in AdS spacesOK, let me start with the questions about relationism and Mach's principle. I highly recommend you the second popular book by Brian Greene, "The Fabric of the Cosmos", where the relative vs. absolute debate is covered in the first chapters. And the presentation is very nice.
What do I think about these issues? Unlike others, I have never been impressed by the relationist ideas and Mach's principle.