Mach’s Views on Physical Space and Time and Their Grounding in Perceptual Space and Time

  • Theodore L. Kneupper
Part of the Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook book series (VCIY, volume 22)


Here are presented the essential features of what Mach considered the four important types or ideas of space and time. These are referred to as ‘perceptual,’ ‘geometrical,’ ‘physical space and time’ and ‘mathematical manifolds.’ Although the first is foundational, we consider how in Mach’s view each further type is in a sense a more general abstraction, freed from particular limiting characteristics of the preceding type. What is most significant is his view of the fourth, in which the most fundamental and essential feature of space is as a relation of immediacy and of time as a relation of mediacy. Some of the important (and often overlooked) implications of this are discussed, along with suggestions regarding their possible relevance to contemporary physics.

Selected Bibliography of Works Cited

  1. By Ernst Mach (These are referred to by way of the initials before each title)Google Scholar
  2. AE: Die Analyse der Empfindungen und das Verhältnis des Physischen Zum Psychischen. Jena: G. Fischer. Ed. 3, 1902. Citations are from the translation by M. C. Williams, The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical, from the 1st German ed. by C.M. Williams, revised and supplemented from the 5th German ed. by S. Waterlow. Dover ed. (3rd English ed.). New York: Dover Publications, 1959.Google Scholar
  3. BER: “Bemerkungen über die Entwicklung der Raumvorstellungen,” Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, (Leipzig). N.F. Bd. 49 (1866), 227–232.Google Scholar
  4. EI: Erkenntnis und Irrtum. Skizzen zur Psychologie der Forschung. Leipzig: J.A. Barth, ed. 2, 1906. (Note: The recent German edition, published Adamant Media Corporation in 2006, has for some unknown reason changed the pagination from the original; hopefully a further edition will correct this cumbersome problem.)Google Scholar
  5. SG: Space and Geometry in the Light of Physiological, Psychological and Physical Inquiry, trans. by T.J. McCormack. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Co., 1906.Google Scholar
  6. Gereon Wolters. Mach I, Mach II, Einstein und die Relativitätstheorie. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore L. Kneupper
    • 1
  1. 1.Slippery Rock University of PennsylvaniaSlippery RockUSA

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