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Relativity Theory as a Theory of Principles. A Reading of Cassirer's Zur Einstein'schen Relativitätstheorie

Giovanelli, Marco (2023) Relativity Theory as a Theory of Principles. A Reading of Cassirer's Zur Einstein'schen Relativitätstheorie. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In his Zur Einstein'schen Relativitätstheorie Cassirer presents relativity theory as the last manifestation of the tradition of the 'physics of principles' that, starting from the nineteenth century, has progressively prevailed over that of the 'physics of models.' In particular, according to Cassirer, the relativity principle plays a similar role as the energy principle in previous physics. The paper argues that this comparison represents the core of Cassirer's neo-Kantian interpretation of relativity. Unlike the individual physical laws, these principles do not pretend to provide models of any specific physical system, but they do impose constraints on the law-like statements that describe them. The latter do not qualify as proper laws unless they satisfy such constraints. Cassirer pointed out that before and after Kant, the history of physics presents significant instances in which the search for formal conditions that the laws of nature must satisfy preceded and made possible the direct search for such laws. In his earlier years, Cassirer seems to have regarded principles like the energy principle, the relativity principle, the principle of least action, etc., as a constitutive but provisional form of a priori, imposing specific limitations on the form of the allowable laws of nature. Only in his later years, by attributing an autonomous status to these statements of principle, did Cassirer attribute a definitive but merely regulative meaning to the a priori. This does not impose specific requirements on natural laws but only a motivation to search for them.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Giovanelli, Marcomarco.giovanelli@unito.it0000-0003-1342-6476
Keywords: Ernst Cassirer; Marburg neo-Kantianism; relativized a priori; principles in physics • energy principle; relativity principle
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Depositing User: Dr. Marco Giovanelli
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2023 23:34
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2023 23:34
Item ID: 22493
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Date: 2023
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22493

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