The Reign of Relativity

Philosophy in Physics 1915-1925

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  • Pages : IX-317
  • Collection : Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Science
  • Support : Print
  • Format : 25 cm.
  • Langues : Anglais
  • Édition : Original
  • Ville : New York : Oxford
  • ISBN : 0195177177
  • Date de création : 22-11-2015
  • Dernière mise à jour : 22-11-2015



The general theory of relativity (1915) was also a defining event for 20th century philosophy of science. During the decisive first ten years of the theory's existence, two main tendencies dominated its philosophical reception. It is argued that the path actually taken, which became logical empiricist philosophy of science, greatly contributed to the current impasse over scientific realism. On the other hand, new possibilities are opened in revisiting and reviving the spirit of a more sophisticated tendency, here broadly termed “transcendental idealism”, a cluster of viewpoints principally associated with Ernst Cassirer, Hermann Weyl, and Arthur Eddington. In particular, Weyl's reformulation of gravitational and electromagnetic theory within the framework of a "pure infinitesimal geometry" under the explicit inspiration of Edmund Husserl's transcendental-phenomenological idealism is traced in detail and further articulated. It is further argued that Einstein, though initially paying lip service to the emerging philosophy of logical empiricism, ended up siding de facto with the broad contours of the transcendental idealist tendency, which is also a significant progenitor of the contemporary point of view misleadingly designated "structural realism". M.-M. V.