Foundations of Physics 51 (1):1-23 (2021)

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Joseph Kevin Cosgrove
Providence College
Abstract
The philosophy of physics literature contains conflicting claims on the heuristic significance of general covariance. Some authors maintain that Einstein's general relativity distinguishes itself from other theories in that it must be generally covariant, for example, while others argue that general covariance is a physically vacuous and trivial requirement applicable to virtually any theory. Moreover, when general covariance is invested with heuristic significance, that significance as a rule is assigned to so-called “active” general covariance, underwritten by the principle of background independence, rather than to general covriance as Einstein understood it. While agreeing with the latter group of commentators that general covariance indeed carries heuristic significance, I argue that a background independent theory need not be generally covariant and that instead the Principle of Equivalence as Einstein understood it provides the key to understanding the heuristic power of general covariance as a “mathematical sieve” for determining the gravitational field law. However, heuristic significance accrues to general covariance only indirectly, by its encompassing the relativity of frames underwritten by Einstein's principle of equivalence.
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DOI 10.1007/s10701-021-00434-z
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What Price Spacetime Substantivalism? The Hole Story.John Earman & John Norton - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (4):515-525.

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