Whitehead's theory of gravity

Abstract

In 1922 in The Principle of Relativity, Whitehead presented an alternative theory of gravitation in response to Einstein’s general relativity. To the latter, he objected on philosophical grounds—specifically, that Einstein’s notion of a variable spacetime geometry contingent on the presence of matter (a) confounds theories of measurement, and, more generally, (b) is unacceptable within the bounds of a reasonable epistemology. Whitehead offered instead a theory based within a comprehensive philosophy of nature. The formulal Whitehead adopted for the gravitational field has been described as involving both the flat metric nu, of Minkowski spacetime and a dynamic metric gu, dependent on the presence of source masses. The ontological relationship between the two must be fleshed out in the context of Whitehead’s philosophy of nature. The relationship is of some importance, not only in casting Whitehead’s theory within its proper metaphysical context vis-d—vis Einstein, but also in judging how the theory has faired empirically with respect to general relativity (GR hereafter). It makes the same predictions as GR with respect to the perihelion advance, the deflection of light rays and the gravitational red-shift; indeed, Eddington (1924) has shown that it is equivalent to the Schwarzschild solution of Einstein’s held equations for the one-body problem. However, it also appears to predict an anisotropy in the locally measured gravitational constant y that is in conflict..

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2009-01-28

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Jonathan Bain
University of Pittsburgh (PhD)

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Citations of this work

Mesh and Measure in Early General Relativity.Olivier Darrigol - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (Part B):163-187.
On the Multiple Deaths of Whitehead's Theory of Gravity.Gary Gibbons & Clifford M. Will - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 39 (1):41-61.

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