Vol. 17 (2014) > lrr-2014-1

doi: 10.12942/lrr-2014-1
Living Rev. Relativity 17 (2014), 1

The Hole Argument and Some Physical and Philosophical Implications

1 Center for Einstein Studies, Boston University, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, U.S.A.

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Article Abstract

This is a historical-critical study of the hole argument, concentrating on the interface between historical, philosophical and physical issues. Although it includes a review of its history, its primary aim is a discussion of the contemporary implications of the hole argument for physical theories based on dynamical, background-independent space-time structures. The historical review includes Einstein’s formulations of the hole argument, Kretschmann’s critique, as well as Hilbert’s reformulation and Darmois’ formulation of the general-relativistic Cauchy problem. The 1970s saw a revival of interest in the hole argument, growing out of attempts to answer the question: Why did three years elapse between Einstein’s adoption of the metric tensor to represent the gravitational field and his adoption of the Einstein field equations? The main part presents some modern mathematical versions of the hole argument, including both coordinate-dependent and coordinate-independent definitions of covariance and general covariance; and the fiber bundle formulation of both natural and gauge natural theories. By abstraction from continuity and differentiability, these formulations can be extended from differentiable manifolds to any set; and the concepts of permutability and general permutability applied to theories based on relations between the elements of a set, such as elementary particle theories. We are closing with an overview of current discussions of philosophical and physical implications of the hole argument.

Keywords: General relativity, Philosophy of science, History of science

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Since a Living Reviews in Relativity article may evolve over time, please cite the access <date>, which uniquely identifies the version of the article you are referring to:

John Stachel,
"The Hole Argument and Some Physical and Philosophical Implications",
Living Rev. Relativity 17,  (2014),  1. URL (cited on <date>):

Article History

ORIGINAL http://www.livingreviews.org/lrr-2014-1
Title The Hole Argument and Some Physical and Philosophical Implications
Author John Stachel
Date accepted 17 November 2013, published 6 February 2014
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