The “Mach Argument” and its Use by Vladimir Fock to Criticize Einstein in the Soviet Union

  • Jean-Philippe Martinez
Part of the Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook book series (VCIY, volume 22)


Following Lenin’s critique of Mach in Materialism and Empiriocriticism, the name of the Austrian philosopher was often used in the Soviet Union to discredit philosophical positions, theories, or individuals, because of the assumed influence he had on them. This is what we define as the “Mach argument”, a matter of rhetoric that usually did not require any additional explanations and suited the political discourse required by the Soviet regime. This chapter aims to study its use by the Soviet physicist Vladimir Fock, to better understand the modalities of his scientific discourse. It highlights the complex situation he faced, as his need to defend modern theories of physics against unjustified ideological attacks in the Soviet Union was in some way at odds with his own belief that their interpretations needed revision. In response, Fock elaborated a strategy that required a form of politicization of his professional culture. Nevertheless, we argue that the scientist showed a great capacity for adaptation as it did not mean in any way an abandonment of his traditional scientific values and principles.


Vladimir Fock Ernst Mach Soviet Union Scientific discourse General relativity 

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Philippe Martinez
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Universidade Federal da Bahia and CNPqSalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratoire SPHERE, UMR 7219, Université Paris Diderot – CNRSParisFrance

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