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Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Philosophy > Metaphysics > B01IYGD55S
  1. Einstein's Genie: Spacetime out of the Bottle
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  2. Einstein's Genie: Spacetime out of the Bottle

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This book is about spacetime, and how, in General Relativity, it performs its widely accepted role of explaining all the phenomena of gravity. Space and time have long been contentious presences in theories of mechanics because of their metaphysical peculiarities. Philosophical worries continue to fog a clear understanding of just how spacetime performs this role. In early sections of his revolutionary paper of 1916, Einstein claimed that his use of a new style of formulation removes "the last remnant of physical objectivity from space and time". His satisfaction in banishing these metaphysical anxieties was evident. However in 1917 it was shown his claim was ungrounded. He readily accepted the criticism: it left intact all the maths and physics of the theory. These amply justify the widespread, orthodox view of spacetime's fundamental role in the theory. Einstein banished no demon but rather released a genie - spacetime. However, his hostility continued, resulting in attempts to rewrite the role of spacetime. These had some later influence but never caught on.

Einstein set supreme importance on the role of imagination in scientific theory and valued it as his most significant gift. In science, perhaps in culture generally, relativity is unsurpassed in its imaginative conceptual daring. Yet he and others paused at its metaphysical novelty and radicalism: hostility to spacetime persists. This book presents an unqualified philosophical defence of the conceptual coherence and uniqueness of spatiotemporality. It offers an alternative to the relationist/substantivalist dilemma; it explains Minkowski's derivation of spacetime without the light postulate; it defends, clarifies and stresses the deep role of spacetime in the standard novelties of both relativity theories.

A study of spacetime in relativity shows how an insubstantial entity can nevertheless be concrete. That solves the metaphysical worry over its intelligibility and reveals it as fundamental to ontology.


Graham Nerlich
Kindle Edition
Kindle eBook
Minkowski Institute Press
Minkowski Institute Press
Minkowski Institute Press
Minkowski Institute Press
Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1. Einstein’s Genie concerns a debate stretching back to Newton and Leibniz as to the metaphysical nature of space. The ontological nature of spacetime is of some topical interest given the recent experimental confirmation of gravitational waves. Furthermore, this is Professor Nerlich’s third book on the subject. I was also lucky enough to take his “Philosophy of Science” course 25 years ago, which included lectures on this subject.
2. Solidly grounded in the maths and physics of general and special relativity (how else can one write on this subject without being so?), Einstein’s Genie is written in the limpid and succinct style of the best philosophy. This is not to say that it is not intellectually “strenuous”. In fact, the author admits that he wrote the book “in retirement for the pure strenuous fun of it” (p.ii).
3. Einstein’s Genie’s metaphysics is of considerable importance to the professional... Read more
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