Philosophy of Physics Talk: Prof. Harvey Brown  Add To Calendar

  • Date(s): Wednesday, 3/14 11:15 AM to Wednesday, 3/14 12:15 PM
  • Speaker: Prof. Harvey Brown
  • Host: Prof. Nick Huggett
  • Campus Address: 1430 UH
Title: How Einstein Came to Employ the Action-Reaction Principle in Justifying General Relativity

Abstract: Einstein regarded as one of the triumphs of his 1915 theory of gravity — the general theory of relativity — that it vindicated the action–reaction principle, while Newtonian mechanics as well as his 1905 special theory of relativity supposedly violated it. In this paper we examine why Einstein came to emphasise this position several years after the development of general relativity. Several key considerations are relevant to the story: the connection Einstein originally saw between Mach’s analysis of inertia and the principle of general covariance, the waning of Mach’s influence owing to de Sitter’s 1917 results, and Einstein’s detailed correspondence with Moritz Schlick in 1920. The talk is based largely on a joint paper with Dennis Lehmkuhl: ‘Einstein, the reality of space, and the action-reaction principle’, in Einstein, Tagore and the Nature of Reality, Partha Ghose (ed.), Routledge, London and New York, 2016; pp. 9-36. arXiv:1306.4902v1. In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 3/5.

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