Gödel, Einstein, Mach: Casting constraints on all-embracing concepts [Book Review]

Foundations of Science 9 (1):25-64 (2004)
Abstract
Can a theory turn back, as it were, upon itselfand vouch for its own features? That is, canthe derived elements of a theory be the veryprimitive terms that provide thepresuppositions of the theory? This form of anall-embracing feature assumes a totality inwhich there occurs quantification over thattotality, quantification that is defined bythis very totality. I argue that the Machprinciple exhibits such a feature ofall-embracing nature. To clarify the argument,I distinguish between on the one handcompleteness and on the other wholeness andtotality, as different all-embracing features:the former being epistemic while the latter –ontological.I propose an analogy between the Mach principleas a possible selection principle in generalrelativity, and the vicious-circle principle infoundations of mathematics. I finally concludewith a consequence of this analogyvis-à-vis completeness and totality,viz., both should be constrained if they wereto be valid concepts for a physical theory.
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