Two challenges to the requirement of substantive general covariance

Synthese 148 (2):443--68 (2006)
It is generally acknowledged that the requirement that the laws of a spacetime theory be covariant under a general coordinate transformation is a restriction on the form but not the content of the theory. The prevalent view in the physics community holds that the substantive version of general covariance – exhibited, for example, by Einstein’s general theory of relativity – consists in the requirement that diffeomorphism invariance is a gauge symmetry of the theory. This conception of general covariance is explained and confronted by two challenges. One challenge claims, in effect, that substantive general covariance is not deserving of the name since, just as it is possible to rewrite any spacetime so that it satisfies formal general covariance, so it is also possible to rewrite the theory so that it satisfies the proffered version of substantive general covariance. The other challenge claims that the proffered version of substantive general covariance is not strong enough to guarantee the intended meaning of general covariance. Both challenges are discussed in terms of concrete examples. It is argued that both challenges fail but, at the same time, that they help to clarify what is at stake on the seemingly never ending dispute over the nature and status of general covariance.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/20118700
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Jonathan Bain (2004). Theories of Newtonian Gravity and Empirical Indistinguishability. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (3):345--76.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Alexander Afriat & Ermenegildo Caccese (2010). The Relativity of Inertia and Reality of Nothing. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 41 (1):9-26.
Gary Gibbons & Clifford M. Will (2007). On the Multiple Deaths of Whitehead's Theory of Gravity. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 39 (1):41-61.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

39 ( #85,375 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #147,227 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.