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Substantive General Covariance: Another Decade of Dispute

Pooley, Oliver (2009) Substantive General Covariance: Another Decade of Dispute. [Published Article]

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    John Earman's recent proposal that a substantive version of general covariance consists in the requirement that diffeomorphism invariance be a gauge symmetry is critically assessed. I argue that such a principle does not serve to differentiate general relativity from pre-relativistic theories. A model-theoretic characterization of two formulations of specially-relativistic theories is suggested. Diffeomorphisms are symmetries of only one such style of formulation and, I argue, Earman's proposal does not provide a reason to deny diffeomorphisms the status of gauge transformations relative to this formulation. Carlo Rovelli's distinction between "passive" and "active" diffeomorphism invariance is also clarified.

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    Item Type: Published Article
    Additional Information: The original publication is available at
    Keywords: general convariance, diffeomorphism invariance, gauge freedom
    Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
    Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
    Depositing User: Oliver Pooley
    Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2012 07:13
    Last Modified: 16 Mar 2012 07:13
    Item ID: 9056
    Journal or Publication Title: EPSA Philosophical Issues in the Sciences: Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association
    Publisher: Springer
    Official URL:

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