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The Reign of RelativityPhilosophy in Physics 1915-1925$
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Thomas Ryckman

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195177176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195177177.001.0001

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General Covariance and the “Relativized A Priori”

General Covariance and the “Relativized A Priori”

Two Roads from Kant

(p.13) General Covariance and the “Relativized A Priori
The Reign of Relativity

Thomas Ryckman

Oxford University Press

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

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