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Hans Reichenbach (1891 – 1953)


Leading philosopher of science, educator and proponent of logical positivism.
Hans Reichenbach
We can... treat only the geometrical aspects of mathematics and shall be satisfied in having shown that there is no problem of the truth of geometrical axioms and that no special geometrical visualization exists in mathematics.
Reichenbach quotes
...the principle of the limiting character of the velocity of light. This statement... is not an arbitrary assumption but a physical law based on experience. In making this statement, physics does not commit the fallacy of regarding absence of knowledge as evidence for knowledge to the contrary. It is not absence of knowledge of faster signals, but positive experience which has taught us that the velocity of light cannot be exceeded. For all physical processes the velocity of light has the property of an infinite velocity. In order to accelerate a body to the velocity of light, an infinite amount of energy would be required, and it is therefore physically impossible for any object to obtain this speed. This result was confirmed by measurements performed on electrons. The kinetic energy of a mass point grows more rapidly than the square of its velocity, and would become infinite for the speed of light.
Reichenbach
...the stereographic projection of the spherical surface. From the north pole P we draw radial lines to project every point of the surface of the sphere upon the horizontal plane [below, perpendicular to a line joining it to P and the sphere's center]. In general this transformation is unique and continuous , although the metrical relations are distorted; for the point P, however, it shows a singularity. Point P is mapped upon the infinite; i.e., no finitely located point of the plane corresponds to it. It can be shown that every transformation possesses a singularity in at least one point. The surface of the sphere is therefore called topologically different from the plane. Only a "sphere without a north pole" [point] would be topologically equivalent to a plane. ...such a sphere has a point-shaped hole without a boundary and is no longer a closed surface.




Reichenbach Hans quotes
For the Lorentz transformation spatial measurements are also changed, because they are obtained relative to a moving system. In our example only time was transformed, while the distances between points at rest remained the same; the spatial coordinates, therefore, retain their identity.
Reichenbach Hans
...introduce the auxiliary concept of first-signal...defined as the fastest message carrier between any two points in space. We now send a first-signal from P, calling the event of departure E1... The event of its arrival at P' is called E'. Simultaneously with the arrival of this signal, another first signal is sent from P'. The arrival of this signal at P is the event E2. ...the time interval between E1 and E2 is coordinated to the event E', [E1 is earlier than E' and E2 is later than E'] and every event of this time interval except for the endpoints is inderterminate as to the time order relative to E'.
Hans Reichenbach quotes
We are frequently faced with the necessity of looking for the picture required for the visualization of an object, not in the perception of this particular object, but in a different perceptual image. ...we can assert the discrepancy between the perceived picture and the objective state. This discrepancy... proves absolutely nothing against the fact that all visualizations are merely sense qualities of the perceptual space. ...If the parallelism is ...to be visualized, we must supplement our assertion by the description of certain qualities with which we are familiar from perceptual space.
Hans Reichenbach
We must... maintain that mathematical geometry is not a science of space insofar as we understand by space a visual structure that can be filled with objects - it is a pure theory of manifolds.
Reichenbach Hans quotes
Why is Einstein's theory better than Lorentz's theory? It would be a mistake to argue that Einstein's theory gives an explanation of Michelson's experiment, since it does not do so. Michelson's experiment is simply taken over as an axiom.
Reichenbach
Occasionally one speaks... of signals or signal chains. It should be noted that the word signal means the transmission of signs and hence concerns the very principle of causal order...
Reichenbach Hans
There is no pure visualization in the sense of a priori philosophies; every visualization is determined by previous sense perceptions, and any separation into perceptual space and space of visualization is not permissible, since the specifically visual elements of the imagination are derived from perceptual space. What led to the mistaken conception of pure visualization was rather an improper interpretation of the normative function... an essential element of all visual representations. Indeed, all arguments which have been introduced for the distinction of perceptual space and space of visualization are base on this normative component of the imagination.
Hans Reichenbach
Although it is admitted that certain differences cannot be verified by experiment, we should not infer from this fact that they do not exist. ...we are accused of having confused subjective inability with objective indeterminacy.




Hans Reichenbach quotes
It is remarkable that this generalization of plane geometry to surface geometry is identical with that generalization of geometry which originated from the analysis of the axiom of parallels. ...the construction of non-Euclidean geometries could have been equally well based upon the elimination of other axioms. It was perhaps due to an intuitive feeling for theoretical fruitfulness that the criticism always centered around the axiom of parallels. For in this way the axiomatic basis was created for that extension of geometry in which the metric appears as an independent variable. Once the significance of the metric as the characteristic feature of the plane has been recognized from the viewpoint of Gauss' plane theory, it is easy to point out, conversely, its connection with the axiom of parallels. The property of the straight line as being the shortest connection between two points can be transferred to curved surfaces, and leads to the concept of straightest line; on the surface of the sphere the great circles play the role of the shortest line of connection... analogous to that of the straight line on the plane. Yet while the great circles as "straight lines" share the most important property with those of the plane, they are distinct from the latter with respect to the axiom of the parallels: all great circles of the sphere intersect and therefore there are no parallels among these "straight lines". ...If this idea is carried through, and all axioms are formulated on the understanding that by "straight lines" are meant the great circles of the sphere and by "plane" is meant the surface of the sphere, it turns out that this system of elements satisfies the system of axioms within two dimensions which is nearly identical in all of it statements with the axiomatic system of Euclidean geometry; the only exception is the formulation of the axiom of the parallels. The geometry of the spherical surface can be viewed as the realization of a two-dimensional non-Euclidean geometry: the denial of the axiom of the parallels singles out that generalization of geometry which occurs in the transition from the plane to the curve surface.
Hans Reichenbach
Euclidean geometry can be easily visualized; this is the argument adduced for the unique position of Euclidean geometry in mathematics. It has been argued that mathematics is not only a science of implications but that it has to establish preference for one particular axiomatic system. Whereas physics bases this choice on observation and experimentation, i.e., on applicability to reality, mathematics bases it on visualization, the analogue to perception in a theoretical science. Accordingly, mathematicians may work with the non-Euclidean geometries, but in contrast to Euclidean geometry, which is said to be "intuitively understood," these systems consist of nothing but "logical relations" or "artificial manifolds". They belong to the field of analytic geometry, the study of manifolds and equations between variables, but not to geometry in the real sense which has a visual significance.
Reichenbach quotes
...the mathematician uses an indirect definition of congruence, making use of the fact that the axiom of parallels together with an additional condition can replace the definition of congruence.
Reichenbach Hans
This fact... proves that space measurements are reducible to time measurements. Time is therefore logically prior to space.
Reichenbach Hans quotes
Clocks are inherently four-dimensional instruments, since the endpoints of their unit distances are events. Measuring rods, on the other hand, are three-dimensional measuring instruments; their end points are space points and they can be changed into four-dimensional measuring instruments only if events are produced at their end points according to a special rule.
Hans Reichenbach
...the differential element of non-Euclidean spaces is Euclidean. This fact, however, is analogous to the relations between a straight line and a curve, and cannot lead to an epistemological priority of Euclidean geometry, in contrast to the views of certain authors.
Hans Reichenbach quotes
The concept of congruence in Euclidean geometry is not exactly the same as that in non-Euclidean geometry. ..."Congruent" means in Euclidean geometry the same as "determining parallelism," a meaning which it does not have in non-Euclidean geometry.
Hans Reichenbach
If heat were the affecting force, direct indications of its presence could be found which would not make use of geometry as an indirect method. ...direct evidence for the presence of heat is based on the fact that it affects different materials in different ways. ...The forces... which we have introduced... have two properties: (a) They affect all materials in the same way. (b) There are no insulating [or isolating] walls. ...the definition of the insulating wall may be added here: it is a covering made of any kind of material which does not act upon the enclosed object with forces having property a. Let us call the forces which have the properties a and b universal forces; all other forces are called differential forces. Then it can be said that differential forces, but not universal forces, are directly demonstrable.
Reichenbach Hans
If E1 is the cause of E2, then a small variation (a mark) in E1 is associated with a small variation in E2, whereas small variations in E2 are not associated with variations in E1. If we wish to express even more clearly that this concept does not contain the concept of temporal order, we can express it in the following form, where events that show a slight variation are designated E*:  E1E2,  E1*E2*,  E1E2* and never the combination E1*E2.


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