Authors
Marco Giovanelli
Università di Torino
Abstract
In his 1916 review paper on general relativity, Einstein made the often-quoted oracular remark that all physical measurements amount to a determination of coincidences, like the coincidence of a pointer with a mark on a scale. This argument, which was meant to express the requirement of general covariance, immediately gained great resonance. Philosophers such as Schlick found that it expressed the novelty of general relativity, but the mathematician Kretschmann deemed it as trivial and valid in all spacetime theories. With the relevant exception of the physicists of Leiden, who were in epistolary contact with Einstein, the motivations behind the point-coincidence remark were not fully understood. Only at the turn of the 1960s did Bergmann start to use the term ‘coincidence’ in a way that was much closer to Einstein’s intentions. In the 1980s, Stachel, projecting Bergmann’s analysis onto his historical work on Einstein’s correspondence, was able to show that what he started to call ‘the point-coincidence argument’ was nothing but Einstein’s answer to the infamous ‘hole argument’. The latter has enjoyed enormous popularity in the following decades, reshaping the philosophical debate on spacetime theories. The point-coincidence argument did not receive comparable attention. By reconstructing the history of the argument and its reception, this paper argues that this disparity of treatment is not justified. This paper will also show that the notion that only coincidences are observable in physics marks every critical step of Einstein’s struggle with the meaning of coordinates in physics.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
ISBN(s)
DOI 10.1007/s13194-020-00332-7
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,355
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

What Price Spacetime Substantivalism? The Hole Story.John Earman & John Norton - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (4):515-525.
Regarding the ‘Hole Argument’.James Owen Weatherall - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (2):329-350.

View all 41 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Einstein, Newton and the Empirical Foundations of Space Time Geometry.Robert DiSalle - 1992 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 6 (3):181 – 189.
Einstein's Hole Argument.Alan Macdonald - 2001 - American Journal of Physics 69:223-225.
Einstein's Theory of Relativity.Max Born - 1965 - New York: Dover Publications.
The Hole Argument Against Everything.Joshua Norton - 2020 - Foundations of Physics 50 (4):360-378.
What Are Mathematical Coincidences ?M. Lange - 2010 - Mind 119 (474):307-340.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2021-05-05

Total views
11 ( #855,818 of 2,519,520 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #205,550 of 2,519,520 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes