A sophisticate's primer of relativity by P. W Bridgman

By P. W Bridgman

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Philosophies that did not stress the fluctuating, contingent, and unpredictable nature of the universe—­as well as the essential place of human consciousness in it and its central role in our knowledge of it—­were, according to him, retrograde and unlearned. While Einstein searched for consistency and simplicity, Bergson focused on inconsistencies and complexities. ”36 Bergson also belonged to a cultural elite, but a very different one from Einstein’s. He saw himself as the continuator of a school of French, post-­Cartesian philosophy.

It was an assessment of the overall meaning of that moment. ” Yet these questions did not interest Einstein during those years, who believed that time was either what clocks measured or it was nothing at all. His mind had no room to explore the reasons why clocks may have been invented in the first place. The contrary was true for Bergson, who wanted to know what led us to live a clockwork-­driven existence and to figure out how to break out of it: “Time is for me that which is most real and necessary; it is the necessary condition of action: What am I saying?

For Bergson, the important questions at stake were not at all about the experimental validity of Einstein’s theory—­they were about the relation of science to metaphysics and about the relation of science to experiment more generally. How are abstract scientific concepts, such as the variable t for time in the relativity equations, related to concrete experimental facts? Can other theories explain those same facts? What is the connection of theoretical science (with its universal claims) to experimental work, concrete things, and local contexts?

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