When I was student I was told that time is defined by the requirement that the physical laws are simple. For example, in classical mechanics time can be defined by the requirment that the velocity of an isolated body is constant. One could generalize this approach by assuming that space-time is defined by the requirement that the physical laws are simple. This can be easily expressed in mathematical language as follows.
In general relativity the universe is represented by the triple $(M, g, T)$ where $M$ is a four-dimensional differentiable manifold, $g$ is a Lorentzian metric, and $T$ is a matter tensor field on $M$ satisfying Einstein's equation.
According to the above approach, we could say that the "true" physical reality of the universe is represented by the pair $(M, T)$, while the metric $g$ emerges as an appeareance from the requirement that evolution appears simple, i.e., that $g$ and $T$ satisfy Einstein's equation.
From the mathematical point of view, this approach poses for example the following problems: does any matter tensor field $T$ admit a metric $g$ such that Einstein's equation is satisfied? To what extent a tensor field $T$ univocally determines the metric $g$?
Does this approach make sense, at least from the mathematical point of view?