Original Research

Einstein’s theory of relativity: At the intersection of apriori elements and empirical experience

Danie F.M. Strauss
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 32, No 1 | a329 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v32i1.329 | © 2013 Danie F.M. Strauss | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 February 2012 | Published: 05 March 2013

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Danie F.M. Strauss, University of the Freestate, South Africa


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Abstract

Appreciation for the status of scientific knowledge followed a remarkably winding path throughout the history of philosophy and of the various specialised sciences. Einstein had to find direction, avoiding the extremes of a one-sided apriorism and an excessivepositivism. The historical background of the problem of what is apriori – that which precedes our experience – is briefly traced back to its Greek roots. Because Einstein did leave room for creative thinking, it empowered him to explore the universality of key aspects of nature, focusing particularly on the uniqueness and coherence of the kinematic and physical aspects of reality. Distinguishing between these aspects provides, on the one hand, a point of departure for criticising the mechanistic inclination of classical physics (directed at the distinction between reversibility and irreversibility), and on the other hand, the ontic universality of these aspects. This helps us to do justice to the ontic universality of these aspects in respect to the demands of experience (the relative justification of the positivistic emphasis on experimental testing of type laws). So Einstein’s approach may be classified as a transcendental-empirical method of investigation. It also highlights the distinction between modal laws and type laws, as well as the apparently mysterious applicability of mathematics to natural phenomena. Finally it is argued that the recent reports in the news media regarding the speed of the neutrino, allegedly faster than that of light, will not invalidate Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Keywords

Apriori en Aposteriori; Denke en ervaring; Transendentaal-empiries; Funksie-wette en tipe-wette; Neutrino en ligsnelheid, Konstansie en verandering

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