Does General Relativity Highlight Necessary Connections in Nature?

Synthese 199 (1-2):1-23 (2021)
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Abstract

The dynamics of general relativity is encoded in a set of ten differential equations, the so-called Einstein field equations. It is usually believed that Einstein's equations represent a physical law describing the coupling of spacetime with material fields. However, just six of these equations actually describe the coupling mechanism: the remaining four represent a set of differential relations known as Bianchi identities. The paper discusses the physical role that the Bianchi identities play in general relativity, and investigates whether these identities --qua part of a physical law-- highlight some kind of a posteriori necessity in a Kripkean sense. The inquiry shows that general relativistic physics has an interesting bearing on the debate about the metaphysics of the laws of nature.

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Antonio Vassallo
Warsaw University of Technology

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