Poincaré's thesis of the translatability of euclidean and non-euclidean geometries

Noûs 25 (5):639-657 (1991)
Abstract
Poincaré's claim that Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are translatable has generally been thought to be based on his introduction of a model to prove the consistency of Lobachevskian geometry and to be equivalent to a claim that Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are logically isomorphic axiomatic systems. In contrast to the standard view, I argue that Poincaré's translation thesis has a mathematical, rather than a meta-mathematical basis. The mathematical basis of Poincaré's translation thesis is that the underlying manifolds of Euclidean and Lobachevskian geometries are homeomorphic. Assuming as Poincaré does that metric relations are not factual, it follows that we can rewrite a physical theory using Euclidean geometry as one using Lobachevskian geometry and express the same facts.
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