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The Reign of Relativity : Philosophy in Physics 1915-1925 - Thomas Ryckman

The Reign of Relativity

Philosophy in Physics 1915-1925

Hardcover

Published: 1st December 2004
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Universally recognized as bringing about a revolutionary transformation of the notions of space, time, and motion in physics, Einstein's theory of gravitation, known as "general relativity," 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. This book is an extended argument that the path actually taken, which became logical empiricist philosophy of science, greatly contributed to the current impasse over realism, whereas new possibilities are opened in revisiting and reviving the spirit of the more sophisticated tendency, a cluster of viewpoints broadly termed transcendental idealism, and furthering its articulation. It also emerges that Einstein, while paying lip service to the emerging philosophy of logical empiricism, ended up siding de facto with the latter tendency.
Ryckman's work speaks to several groups, among them philosophers of science and historians of relativity. Equations are displayed as necessary, but Ryckman gives the non-mathematical reader enough background to understand their occurrence in the context of his wider philosophical project.

"This is (or should be) a major "paradigm shift" in contemporary philosophy of science and epistemology. Ryckman masterfully blends usually incommensurable skills in mathematics (differential geometry), physics(gravitational and electrodynamic theory), Husserlian phenomenology, logical empiricism, and neo-Kantianism to rehabilitate post-1916 Einstein discourse on the phiolosophy and strategy of general relativity and unified field theory. Highly recommended."--CHOICE "Ryckman shows that the philosophical significance of the general theory of relativity was by no means confined to its appropriation by logical empiricism, but extended far wider to embrace a variety of philosophical approaches under the general rubric of transcendental idealism. Most importantly, perhaps, Einstein's theory was subject to a profound effort at interpretation and development by the philosophically minded mathematician Hermann Weyl, working under the explicit inspiration of the transcendental phenomenological idealism of Edmund Husserl. Ryckman's book thus points in radically new directions for understanding twentieth century philosophy more generally, and, in particular, the much vexed question of the relationship between analytic and continental philosophical traditions."--Michael Friedman, Frederick P. Rehmus Family Professor of Humanities, Stanford University "The Reign of Relativity accomplishes a giant leap forward in understanding where we are in philosophy today. Ryckman studies the profound ways in which the development of twentieth century philosophy (logical empiricism, transcendental phenomenology, and neo-Kantianism) became entangled with the development of general relativity. He locates both an influential series of false steps (especially concerning realism, objectivity and the a priori) and also a corrective, drawing the latter from the writings of Cassirer, Eddington and Weyl. No one has treated these figures more masterfully, nor made them more relevant to today's philosophical concerns."--Arthur Fine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington "A rare combination of philosophical wisdom and mathematical expertise, Ryckman's book throws light on a remarkable period of the history of Relativity Theory, which has too long been hidden under the rubbish poured on it by unsympathetic writers. The work of Einstein's successors Hermann Weyl and Arthur Eddington and their links to the philosophy of Husserl are insightfully displayed here with a view to giving it a role in current and forthcoming theoretical physics."--Roberto Torretti, Professor Emeritus, University of Puerto Rico "This is (or should be) a major "paradigm shift" in contemporary philosophy of science and epistemology. Ryckman masterfully blends usually incommensurable skills in mathematics (differential geometry), physics(gravitational and electrodynamic theory), Husserlian phenomenology, logical empiricism, and neo-Kantianism to rehabilitate post-1916 Einstein discourse on the phiolosophy and strategy of general relativity and unified field theory. Highly recommended."--CHOICE

Introductionp. 3
General covariance and the "relativized A Priori" : two roads from Kantp. 13
1921 : "critical or empiricist interpretation of the new physics?"p. 47
Einstein agonists : Weyl and Reichenbachp. 77
Transcendental-phenomenological idealism : Husserl and Weylp. 108
Weyl's "purely infinitesimal" constitution of field physicsp. 145
"World building" : structuralism and transcendental idealism in Eddingtonp. 177
Geometrizing physics : Eddington's theory of the affine fieldp. 218
Epilogue : the "geometrization of physics" and transcendental idealismp. 235
Michael Friedman and the "relativized A Priori"p. 245
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195177176
ISBN-10: 0195177177
Series: Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Science
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 330
Published: 1st December 2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.3 x 16.3  x 2.3
Weight (kg): 0.59