Einstein, Albert (1879-1955) - Research Article from Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Philosophy of Physics

Relativity

Einstein was a critic of the spatio-temporal framework of Newtonian physics, following a path marked out by Ernst Mach, who attacked Newton's introduction of "absolute" space and time not as unobservable (a fact advertised by Newton himself) but as unnecessary for doing physics. In Einstein's hands, however, Mach's critical method became a tool for positive theory construction.

Newton argued that acceleration must be absolute in order to explain inertial effects, such as the way water crawls up the sides of a rotating bucket. From absolute acceleration Newton moved (questionably, it turns out) to absolute space and time. Mach countered that inertial effects, like others, could be seen as purely relational. In particular, if one could rotate large enough masses and leave the bucket alone the same water-crawling effects would occur. This idea came to be known as Mach's Principle, which strongly influenced Einstein's...

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This section contains 3,466 words
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Buy the Einstein, Albert (1879-1955) Encyclopedia Article
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Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Einstein, Albert (1879-1955) from Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.
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