Gone Till November: A disagreement in Einstein scholarship

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Räz, Tim
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The present paper examines an episode from the historiography of the genesis of general relativity. Einstein rejected a certain theory in the so-called “Zurich notebook” in 1912-13, but he reinstated the same theory for a short period of time in the November of 1915. Why did Einstein reject the theory at first, and why did he change his mind later? The group of Einstein scholars who reconstructed Einstein’s reasoning in the Zurich notebook disagree on how to answer these questions. According to the “majority view”, Einstein was unaware of so-called “coordinate conditions”, and he relied on so-called “coordinate restrictions”. John Norton, on the other hand, claims that Einstein must have had coordinate conditions all along, but committed a different mistake, which he would repeat in the context of the famous “hole argument”. After an account of the two views, and of the reactions by the respective opponents, I will probe the two views for weaknesses, and try to determine how we might settle the disagreement. Finally, I will discuss emerging methodological issues.