The Theories of Relativity and Bergson's Philosophy of Duration and Simultaneity During and After Einstein's 1922 Visit to Paris

13 Jan 2020  ·  Unnikrishnan C. S. ·

In 1922, Albert Einstein visited Paris and interacted extensively with an illustrious section of the French academia. In overfilled sessions at the Coll\'{e}ge de France and the Sorbonne, Einstein explained his theories of relativity, and prominent physicists, mathematicians and philosophers listened, debated, questioned and explored facets of relativity... The 1922 visit had its echoes in the life and works of many who participated, particularly decisive for Einstein and the philosopher Henri Bergson. This essay examines that eventful visit, focusing on the physical and logical aspects of Bergson's critique, with physics commentaries, linking prominent French physicists and mathematicians Langevin, Painlev\'{e}, Hadamard, Becquerel, Sagnac, and Kastler. I give particular attention to the logical and empirical accuracy of the physics issues involved, delineating Bergson's exact reasoning for his philosophical enthusiasm in Einstein's theory and for the ensuing critique. Bergson's philosophical stand on duration and simultaneity is reassessed in the context of later developments in cosmological physics as well as the wealth of empirical data involving comparison of atomic clocks. Finally we are led naturally to a surprising completion of the philosopher's program on universal time, duration and simultaneity, in harmony with the time of the physicist. In the appendices after the main text I also give the physics background and easily verifiable proofs for the assertions made in the text, pertaining to relativity, simultaneity and time dilation, clearly distinguishing beliefs and facts. read more

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History and Philosophy of Physics General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology