Poincaré's conventionalism and the logical positivists

Foundations of Science 1 (2):299-314 (1995)

Abstract

The logical positivists adopted Poincare's doctrine of the conventionality of geometry and made it a key part of their philosophical interpretation of relativity theory. I argue, however, that the positivists deeply misunderstood Poincare's doctrine. For Poincare's own conception was based on the group-theoretical picture of geometry expressed in the Helmholtz-Lie solution of the space problem, and also on a hierarchical picture of the sciences according to which geometry must be presupposed be any properly physical theory. But both of this pictures are entirely incompatible with the radically new conception of space and geometry articulated in the general theory of relativity. The logical positivists's attempt to combine Poincare's conventionalism with Einstein's new theory was therefore, in the end, simply incoherent. Underlying this problem, moreover, was a fundamental philosophical difference between Poincare's and the positivists concerning the status of synthetic a priori truths.

Download options

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,805

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
297 (#37,190)

6 months
5 (#135,686)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

References found in this work

The Logical Syntax of Language.Rudolf Carnap - 1937 - London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co..

Add more references

Similar books and articles

Conventionalism and Realism in Hans Reichenbach's Philosophy of Geometry.Carsten Klein - 2001 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 15 (3):243 – 251.
Convention: Poincaré and Some of His Critics.Yemima Ben‐Menahem - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (3):471-513.
Henri Poincare and Bruno de Finetti: Conventions and Scientific Reasoning.S. B. - 1997 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 28 (4):657-679.
Poincare's Contributions to Relativistic Dynamics.Galina Granek - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 31 (1):15-48.
Poincaré: Mathematics & Logic & Intuition.Colin Mclarty - 1997 - Philosophia Mathematica 5 (2):97-115.