D O C . 4 F O U N D A T I O N S O F G E N E R A L R E L A T I V I T Y 3 3
4. “On the Foundations of the
General Theory of Relativity”
Received 6 March 1918
Published 24 May 1918
In: Annalen der Physik 55 (1918): 241–244.
A number of recent publications give me occasion to return to the foundations of
general relativity, in particular the discerning paper by Kretschmann which was re-
cently published in these annals 53, number 16. My aim here is merely to empha-
size the basic ideas, while I presume the theory to be known.
The theory, as I see it today, is based upon three fundamental aspects which,
however, are by no means independent of one another. They shall be briefly
sketched and characterized, and then illuminated from a few aspects in the follow-
a. Principle of Relativity. Nature’s laws are merely statements about temporal-
spatial coincidences; therefore, they find their only natural expression in gener-
ally covariant equations.
b. Principle of Equivalence. Inertia and gravity are phenomena identical in na-
ture. From this and from the special theory of relativity it follows necessarily
that the symmetric “fundamental tensor” determines the metric properties
of space, the inertial behavior of bodies in this space, as well as the gravitational
effects. We shall call the state of space which is described by this fundamental
tensor the “G-field.”
The G-field is completely determined by the masses of the
bodies. Since mass and energy are—according to the results of the special theory
of relativity—the same, and since energy is formally described by the symmetric
Up to now I have not kept the principles (a) and (c) clearly separated; but this was con-
fusing. I have chosen the term “Mach’s principle” because this principle is a generalization
of Mach’s claim that inertia has to be reduced upon interaction of the bodies.