On the role of special relativity in general relativity

Abstract
The existence of a definite tangent space structure (metric with Lorentzian signature) in the general theory of relativity is the consequence of a fundamental assumption concerning the local validity of special relativity. There is then at the heart of Einstein's theory of gravity an absolute element which depends essentially on a common feature of all the non-gravitational interactions in the world, and which has nothing to do with space-time curvature. Tentative implications of this point for the significance of the vacuum solutions in general relativity, and for the issue of quantising gravity, are briefly examined.
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