Les trois stades du principe de relativité

Abstract : With the three stages of the principle of relativity, we undertake a historical return on several determinant moments of the invention of physics, set into a temporal chain of relations. We first discuss some methodological aspects posed by the historicity of knowledge contents, and several questions raised by the choice of a point of view and of a leading thread, necessary to make out meanings. We then consider, for each examined “phase”, physical contents together with their relative contexts, that constitute what will be taken, seen from the end, as the “history” of a “principle of relativity”. Such a history deals first with the relativity of motion of galilean physics and classical mechanics, then with its extension or not to optics. The explicit formulation of a “principle of relativity” is accompanied thenafter by a confrontation between mechanics and electromagnetism, considered differently by several authors and cleared up by the reform of the conceptual framework achieved at by the special theory of relativity. Finally, the generalization of the principle of relativity to all types of motions, with the theory of general relativity providing the solution of the gravitation problem, determines the final understanding of the notion of “relativity principle”, endowed henceforth with a theoretical function, and crowned by the notions of invariance and symmetry of present physics.
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Michel Paty. Les trois stades du principe de relativité. Revue des questions scientifiques, 1999, pp.103-150. ⟨halshs-00170527⟩

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