Conventionalism in Early Analytic Philosophy and the Principle of Relativity

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In this paper I argue that the positivist–conventionalist interpretation of the Restricted Principle of Relativity is flawed, due to the positivists’ own understanding of conventions and their origins. I claim in the paper that, to understand the conventionalist thesis, one has to diambiguate between three types of convention; the linguistic conventions stemming from the fundamental role of mathematical axioms (conceptual conventions), the conventions stemming from the coordination betweeh theoretical statements and physical, observable facts or entities (coordinative definitions), and conventions that are made possible by possible revisions to theory (the thesis of empirical underdetermination). I claim that it is not possible to interpret the Principle of Relativity as based on one of these three types of convention. This renders the conventionalist interpretation of the Principle of Relativity untenable. The paper is part of a larger project that aims to understand the philosophical significance of the Principle of Relativity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-852
Number of pages26
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Carnap
  • Conventionalism
  • Coordinative definitions
  • Positivism
  • Reichenbach
  • Schlick
  • The Principle of Relativity


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