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Erich Kretschmann as a Proto-Logical-Empiricist: Adventures and Misadventures of the Point-Coincidence Argument

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  • Conventionalism
  • History Of Philosophy Of Science
  • Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
  • Relativity Theory
  • Theory/Observation
  • Philosophy
  • Physics


The present paper attempts to show that a 1915 article by Erich Kretschmann must be credited not only for being the source of Einstein’s point-coincidence remark, but also for having anticipated the main lines of the logical-empiricist interpretation of general relativity. Whereas Kretschmann was inspired by the work of Mach and Poincaré, Einstein inserted Kretschmann’s point-coincidence parlance into the context of Ricci and Levi-Civita’s absolute differential calculus. Kretschmann himself realized this and turned the point-coincidence argument against Einstein in his second and more famous 1918 paper. While Einstein had taken nothing from Kretschmann but the expression “point-coincidences”, the logical empiricists, however, instinctively dragged along with it the entire apparatus of Kretschmann’s conventionalism. Disappointingly, in their interpretation of general relativity, the logical empiricists unwittingly replicated some epistemological remarks Kretschmann had written before General Relativity even existed.

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