Gone Till November: A Disagreement in Einstein Scholarship
- 333 Downloads
The present paper examines an episode from the historiography of the genesis of general relativity. Einstein rejected a certain theory in the so-called “Zurich notebook” in 1912–13, but he reinstated the same theory for a short period of time in the November of 1915. Why did Einstein reject the theory at first, and why did he change his mind later? The group of Einstein scholars who reconstructed Einstein’s reasoning in the Zurich notebook disagree on how to answer these questions. According to the “majority view”, Einstein was unaware of so-called “coordinate conditions”, and he relied on so-called “coordinate restrictions”. John Norton, on the other hand, claims that Einstein must have had coordinate conditions all along, but that he committed a different mistake, which he would repeat in the context of the famous “hole argument”. After an account of the two views, and of the reactions by the respective opponents, I will probe the two views for weaknesses, and try to determine how we might settle the disagreement. Finally, I will discuss emerging methodological issues.
KeywordsField Equation Ricci Tensor Coordinate Condition Independent Reality Newtonian Limit
I thank John Norton and Raphael Scholl for comments on previous drafts of the paper, and Tilman Sauer for comments and fruitful discussions concerning the genesis of GR.
- Bianchi, L. 1910. Vorlesungen über Differentialgeometrie, 2 ed. Teubner.Google Scholar
- Einstein, A., and M. Grossmann. 1995. Entwurf einer verallgemeinerten relativitätstheorie und einer theorie der gravitation, 302–343. In Klein et al. (1995).Google Scholar
- Janssen, M. 2007. What did Einstein know and when did he know it? A besso memo dated August 1913, 785–838. In Janssen et al. (2007b).Google Scholar
- Janssen, M., Norton, J.D., Renn, J., Sauer, T., and J. Stachel. 2007a. The genesis of general relativity. Vol. 1. Einstein’s Zurich notebook: Introduction and source. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- Janssen, M., Norton, J.D., Renn, J., Sauer, T., and J. Stachel. 2007b. The genesis of general relativity. Vol. 2. Einstein’s Zurich notebook: Commentary and essays. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- Janssen, M., and J. Renn. 2007. Untying the knot: How Einstein found his way back to field equations discarded in the Zurich notebook, 839–925. In Janssen et al. (2007b).Google Scholar
- Klein, M.J., Kox, A.J., Renn, J., and R. Schulmann (eds.). 1995. The collected papers of Albert Einstein, volume 4: The Swiss years: Writings, 1912–1914. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Norton, J.D. 2007. What was Einstein’s “Fateful Prejudice”?, 715–83. In Janssen et al. (2007b).Google Scholar
- Norton, J.D. 2011. The hole argument. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-holearg/.
- Renn, J. 2004. Standing on the shoulders of a dwarf: General relativity: A triumph of Einstein and Grossmann’s erroneous “entwurf” theory. In In the shadow of the relativity revolution, Preprint 271, 5–20, Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.Google Scholar
- Renn, J. (ed.). 2007. The genesis of general relativity (4 vols.). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- Renn, J., and T. Sauer. 2007. Pathways out of classical physics. Einstein’s double strategy in his search for the gravitational field equation, 113–312. In Janssen et al. (2007a).Google Scholar
- Sauer, T. 2014. Marcel Grossmann, and his contribution to the general theory of relativity. In Proceedings of the 13th Marcel Grossmann meeting on recent developments in theoretical and experimental general relativity, gravitation, and relativistic field theory, ed. Jantzen, R.T., Rosquist, K., and R. Ruffini. Singapore: World Scientific. arXiv:1312.4068.
- Stachel, J. 2007. The first two acts, 81–112. In Janssen et al. (2007a).Google Scholar
- Veblen, O. 1927. Invariants of quadratic differential forms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Wright, J.E. 1908. Invariants of quadratic differential forms. New York: Hafner Publishing Co.Google Scholar