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Gravitational and Nongravitational Energy: The Need for Background Structures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


The aim of this article is to discuss some aspects of the nature of gravitational energy within the general theory of relativity. Some aspects of the difficulties to ascribe the usual features of localization and conservation to gravitational energy are reviewed and considered in the light of the dual role of the dynamical gravitational field, which encodes both inertio-gravitational effects and the chronogeometrical structures of space-time. These considerations will lead us to discuss the fact that the very notion of energy—gravitational or not—is actually well defined in the theory only with respect to some background structure.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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I wish to thank José Luis Jaramillo, Brian Pitts, and Bryan Roberts for valuable exchanges on this topic. I also wish to thank the participants of the Southern California Philosophy of Physics Group meeting and the audience at the Philosophy of Science Association meeting. I am grateful to the Perimeter Institute—Australia Foundations (PIAF) collaboration for financial support. This research was also partly supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (100011-124462/1).


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