Carl Hoefer
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
The story of Einstein's struggle to create a general theory of relativity, and his early discontentment with the final form of the theory , is well known in broad outline. Thanks to the work of John Norton and others, much of the fine detail of the story is also now known. One aspect of Einstein's work in this period has, however, been relatively neglected: Einstein's commitment to Mach's ideas on inertia, and the influence this commitment had on Einstein's work on general relativity from 1907 to 1918. In this paper published writings and archival material are examined, to try to reconstruct the details of Einstein's thinking about inertia and gravitation, and the role that Mach's ideas played in Einstein's crucial work on the general theory. By the end, a clear picture of Einstein's conceptions of Mach's ideas on inertia, and their philosophical motivations, will emerge. Several surprising conclusions also emerge: Einstein's desire for a Machian gravitation theory was the central force driving his work from 1912 to 1915, keeping him going despite numerous frustrating setbacks; Einstein's continued commitment to Mach's ideas in 1916–1917 kept him at work trying various strategies of modification of the field equations, in order to exclude anti-Machian solutions ; and as late as early 1918, Einstein was ready to call the whole General Theory a failure if no way of squaring it with Mach's ideas on inertia could be found. But by 1920 Einstein advocated a view that granted spacetime independent existence with physical qualities of its own, a complete break with his earlier Machian views
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1016/0039-3681(94)90056-6
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 59,700
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Substances and Space-Time: What Aristotle Would Have Said to Einstein.Tim Maudlin - 1990 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 21 (4):531-561.
The Cosmological Constant: Einstein's Greatest Mistake?Christopher Ray - 1990 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 21 (4):589.
Zum Relativitäts-Problem.A. Einstein - 1914 - Scientia 8 (15):337.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Energy Conservation in GTR.Carl Hoefer - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 31 (2):187-199.
Mass‐Energy‐Momentum: Only There Because of Spacetime.Dennis Lehmkuhl - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (3):453-488.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Indeterminism, Classical Gravitation and Non-Collision Singularities.Jon Pérez Laraudogoitia - 2001 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 15 (3):269 – 274.
Critical Notice.Jeremy Butterfield - 2002 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (2):289-330.
The Genesis and Structure of Models in the Modern Theory of Gravity.R. M. Nugayev - 1987 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2 (1):84 – 104.
Whitehead's Theory of Gravity.Jonathan Bain - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 29 (4):547-574.
Einstein's Unification.Jeroen van Dongen - 2010 - Cambridge University Press.
Planetary Gravitation and History.Tauno Mannila - 1973 - Distributor, Akateeminen Kirjaksuppa.


Added to PP index

Total views
59 ( #174,459 of 2,432,313 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #466,190 of 2,432,313 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes