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Literal versus Careful Interpretations of Scientific Theories: The Vacuum Approach to the Problem of Motion in General Relativity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

The problem of motion in general relativity is about how exactly the gravitational field equations, the Einstein equations, are related to the equations of motion of material bodies subject to gravitational fields. This article compares two approaches to derive the geodesic motion of (test) matter from the field equations: the ‘T approach’ and the ‘vacuum approach’. The latter approach has been dismissed by philosophers of physics because it apparently represents material bodies by singularities. I argue that a careful interpretation of the approach shows that it does not depend on introducing singularities at all and that it holds at least as much promise as the T approach.

Type
Physical Sciences
Information
Philosophy of Science , Volume 84 , Issue 5 , December 2017 , pp. 1202 - 1214
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I would like to thank my colleagues at Caltech and at the Einstein Papers Project for many discussions about the problem of motion and the Einstein-Grommer approach in particular. Thanks are due especially to Diana Kormos-Buchwald, Frederick Eberhardt, and Daniel Kennefick. I would also like to thank audiences at Caltech, Oxford, Irvine, the BSPS 2016 conference in Cardiff, at the 8th Quadrennial Pittsburgh Fellows conference in Lund, Sweden, and of course at the PSA 2016 for many helpful discussions on the topic. I would like to thank especially Sam Fletcher, David Malament, and Jim Weatherall for carefully reading earlier versions of this article and for the extremely helpful comments they gave me. Finally, I would like to thank Dana Tulodziecki for pointing my attention to the link between posit realism and what I was saying in this article.

References

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