History and Philosophy Of Science | Research Seminar on the History and the Philosophy of the Special Theory of Relativity
X790 | 26531 | Amit Hagar


Amit Hagar
X790
Research Seminar on the History and the Philosophy of the Special Theory of Relativity


“It appears more natural to think of physical reality as a four-
dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a
three-dimensional existence”. Nothing better than Einstein’s words
epitomizes the impact of his theories of relativity, the special and
the general, on the way we think about space and time.
In the first module of this course (~4-5 weeks) we shall acquaint
ourselves with the structure of the special and the general theories
of relativity and their basic posits. During this learning period,
students will choose a philosophical and/or historical research
question they would like to pursue. In the second module we will
read several chapters from the recent Lakatos award-winning
monograph Physical Relativity (Brown 2005) and discuss some of its
claims and the reaction they have generated. The third and the
fourth modules will be dedicated to critically discussing students’
projects.
Possible research questions: Is simultaneity conventional? Does
relativity prove that time doesn’t flow? What is the explanatory
significance of the theory? Can it be used as a template in other
domains in the philosophy of science? What role, if any, did
contemporary experiments played in Einstein’s conception of the
theory? How does Einstein’s view of the theory differ
methodologically from the views of his contemporaries Lorentz,
FitzGerald and Poincare’? What insights can we gain from the
analysis of this difference when applied to other domains in
science? Are unconventional views of relativity (e.g. Brown 2005)
committed to a specific metaphysics of spacetime?
All the physics/math necessary for the course will be taught in
class; the class will definitely be accessible to humanities
students and conceptually challenging to both humanities and science
majors. Each participant in the seminar will be required to make at
least one presentation to the seminar, on a the research topic to be
chosen in consultation with the instructor, that would result in a
research paper (minimum 20 pp.).