Talking at Cross-Purposes. How Einstein and Logical Empiricists never Agreed on what they were Disagreeing about
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By inserting the dialogue between Einstein, Schlick and Reichenbach in a wider network of debates about the epistemology of geometry, the paper shows, that not only Einstein and Logical Empiricists came to disagree about the role, principled or provisional, played by rods and clocks in General Relativity, but they actually, in their life-long interchange, never clearly identified the problem they were discussing. Einstein’s reflections on geometry can be understood only in the context of his “measuring rod objection” against Weyl. Logical Empiricists, though carefully analyzing the Einstein-Weyl debate, tried on the contrary to interpret Einstein’s epistemology of geometry as a continuation of the Helmholtz-Poincaré debate by other means. The origin of the misunderstanding, it is argued, should be found in the failed appreciation of the difference between a “Helmhotzian” and a “Riemannian” tradition. The epistemological problems raised by General Relativity are extraneous to the first tradition and can only be understood in the context of the latter, whose philosophical significance, however, still needs to be fully explored.