Matter or geometry as fundamental in relativity theory: How not to teach special relativity
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In this paper, I review a number of interpretational frameworks for relativistic phenomena like length contraction and relativity of simultaneity. Of central focus is the book Physical Relativity by Harvey Brown, where Brown advocates a view in which matter takes ontological priority over geometry. I discuss Brown’s claims and examine some of the criticisms they have received. I discuss the nature of simultaneity in particular, sketching the historical context and commenting on its relation to some of Brown’s broader arguments. Finally, I examine the consequences that Brown’s thesis has for what constitutes good pedagogy when teaching special relativity.