The Historiography of Special Relativity: Comments on the Papers by John Earman, Clark Glymour, and Robert Rynasiewicz and by Arthur Miller

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:417 - 428 (1982)
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Two problems in the paper by EGR are considered. One is the lack of any direct confirmatory evidence for the elegant rational reconstruction. The second is a significant gap in the historical account, just at the critical point in Einstein's discovery process -- namely, the reanalysis of simultaneity. In addition, the EGR account appears in danger of being overly focused on the electrodynamical aspect of special relativity to the exclusion of optical null experiments, and in particular to the exclusion of the role of the 1887 Michelson-Morely interferometer experiment. The author disagrees with Miller on the Kantian aspects of Poincare, and on the role of Anschauungen, preferring to sketch instead a more important role for a Mach-like analysis of fundamental scientific concepts. It is argued that Miller has misconstrued the difference between an axiomatic theory and a "theory of principle" in Einstein's approach. Finally, some suggestions are made as to how the gap in our analysis of Einstein's revolution in simultaneity might be reexamined.



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Kenneth Schaffner
University of Pittsburgh

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