Friedman and Some of His Critics on the Foundations of General Relativity

  • Ryan SamarooEmail author
Part of the Einstein Studies book series (EINSTEIN, volume 15)


The paper is an examination of Michael Friedman’s analysis of the conceptual structure of Einstein’s theory of gravitation, with a particular focus on a number of critical reactions to it. Friedman argues that conceptual frameworks in physics are stratified, and that a satisfactory analysis of a framework requires us to recognize the differences in epistemological character of its components. He distinguishes first-level principles that define a framework of empirical investigation from second-level principles that are formulable in that framework. On his account, the theory of Riemannian manifolds and the equivalence principle define the framework of empirical investigation in which Einstein’s field equations are an intellectual and empirical possibility. Friedman is a major interpreter of relativity and his view has provoked a number of critical reactions, nearly all of which miss the mark. I aim to free Friedman’s analysis of Einsteinian gravitation from a baggage of misconceptions and to defend the notion that physical theories are stratified. But I, too, am a critic and I criticize Friedman’s view on several counts, notably his characterization of a constitutive principle and his account of the principle of equivalence’s methodological role.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Somerville CollegeOxfordUK

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