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"But One Must not Legalize the Mentioned Sin". Phenomenological vs. Dynamical Treatment of Rods and Clocks in Einstein's Thought

Giovanelli, Marco (2014) "But One Must not Legalize the Mentioned Sin". Phenomenological vs. Dynamical Treatment of Rods and Clocks in Einstein's Thought. Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 48. pp. 20-44. ISSN 13552198

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Abstract

The paper offers a historical overview of Einstein's oscillating attitude towards a "phenomenological" and "dynamical" treatment of rods and clocks in relativity theory. Contrary to what it has been usually claimed in recent literature, it is argued that this distinction should not be understood in the framework of opposition between principle and constructive theories. In particular Einstein does not seem to have plead for a "dynamical" explanation for the phenomenon rods contraction and clock dilation which was initially described only "kinematically". On the contrary textual evidence shows that, according to Einstein, a realistic microscopic model of rods and clocks was needed to account for the very existence of measuring devices of "identical construction" which always measure the same unit of time and the same unit of length. In fact, it will be shown that the empirical meaningfulness of both relativity theories depends on what, following Max Born, one might call the "principle of the physical identity of the units of measure". In the attempt to justify the validity of such principle, Einstein was forced by different interlocutors, in particular Hermann Weyl and Wolfgang Pauli, to deal with the genuine epistemological, rather then physical question whether a theory should be able or not to described the material devices that serve to its own verification


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Giovanelli, Marcomarco.giovanelli@uni-tuebingen.de
Keywords: Albert Einstein, Relativity Theory, Rods and Clocks, Hermann Weyl, Wolfgang Pauli, Constructive Relativity, Conformational Holism
Subjects: General Issues > Conventionalism
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Dr. Marco Giovanelli
Date Deposited: 25 Dec 2015 14:31
Last Modified: 25 Dec 2015 14:31
Item ID: 11821
Journal or Publication Title: Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Publisher: Elsevier
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsb.2014.08.012
DOI or Unique Handle: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1355219814000963
Subjects: General Issues > Conventionalism
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 2014
Page Range: pp. 20-44
Volume: 48
ISSN: 13552198
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/11821

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