Chapter

General Covariance and the “Relativized <i>A Priori</i>”

Thomas Ryckman

in The Reign of Relativity

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780195177176
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835324 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195177177.003.0002

Series: Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Science

 General Covariance and the “Relativized A Priori”

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A tension within Kant’s Transcendental Analytic, regarding the combination of the “active” faculty of understanding with the “passive” faculty of sensibility, underlies the distinct appraisals in 1920 by Hans Reichenbach and Ernst Cassirer of constitutive but “relativized” a priori principles in the GTR. Reichenbach’s “principles of coordination” presuppose Schlick’s conception of cognition as a coordination of formal concepts to objects of perceptual experience, and are shown to be consonant only with the commitments of scientific realism. Cassirer’s rejection of the “active”/“passive” dichotomy promoted his conception of general covariance as a high level principle of objectivity, much in accord with Einstein’s own later views, as recently articulated in the literature on the “Hole Argument.” In particular, the principle of general covariance is shown to place significant constraints on field theories, a point noted by David Hilbert and implicit in the work of Emmy Noether.

Keywords: Kant; Transcendental Analytic; Hans Reichenbach; Ernst Cassirer; Albert Einstein; general relativity; constitutive principles; general covariance; Hole Argument; David Hilbert

Chapter.  18087 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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