Literal versus Careful Interpretations of Scientific Theories: The Vacuum Approach to the Problem of Motion in General Relativity

Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1202-1214 (2017)
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Abstract

The problem of motion in general relativity is about how exactly the gravitational field equations, the Einstein equations, are related to the equations of motion of material bodies subject to gravitational fields. This article compares two approaches to derive the geodesic motion of matter from the field equations: the ‘T approach’ and the ‘vacuum approach’. The latter approach has been dismissed by philosophers of physics because it apparently represents material bodies by singularities. I argue that a careful interpretation of the approach shows that it does not depend on introducing singularities at all and that it holds at least as much promise as the T approach.

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Dennis Lehmkuhl
Universität Bonn

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