Talking at cross-purposes: how Einstein and the logical empiricists never agreed on what they were disagreeing about

Synthese 190 (17):3819-3863 (2013)

Marco Giovanelli
Universität Tübingen
By inserting the dialogue between Einstein, Schlick and Reichenbach into a wider network of debates about the epistemology of geometry, this paper shows that not only did Einstein and Logical Empiricists come to disagree about the role, principled or provisional, played by rods and clocks in General Relativity, but also that in their lifelong interchange, they never clearly identified the problem they were discussing. Einstein’s reflections on geometry can be understood only in the context of his ”measuring rod objection” against Weyl. On the contrary, Logical Empiricists, though carefully analyzing the Einstein–Weyl debate, tried to interpret Einstein’s epistemology of geometry as a continuation of the Helmholtz–Poincaré debate by other means. The origin of the misunderstanding, it is argued, should be found in the failed appreciation of the difference between a “Helmholtzian” and a “Riemannian” tradition. The epistemological problems raised by General Relativity are extraneous to the first tradition and can only be understood in the context of the latter, the philosophical significance of which, however, still needs to be fully explored
Keywords Logical empiricism  Moritz Schlick  Hans Reichenbach   Albert Einstein  Hermann Weyl  Epistemology of geometry
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Reprint years 2013
DOI 10.1007/s11229-012-0229-1
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Quantum Dialogue: The Making of a Revolution.Mara Beller - 1999 - University of Chicago Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Why Einstein Did Not Believe That General Relativity Geometrizes Gravity.Dennis Lehmkuhl - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46 (2):316-326.
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The Conventionality of Simultaneity in Einstein’s Practical Chrono-Geometry.Mario Bacelar Valente - 2017 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 32 (2):177-190.

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