On the ontology of particle mass and energy in special relativity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Einstein claimed that the fundamental dynamical insight of special relativity was the equivalence of mass and energy. I disagree. Not only are mass and energy not equivalent (whatever exactly that means) but talk of such equivalence obscures the real dynamical insight of special relativity, which concerns the nature of 4-forces and interactions more generally. In this paper I present and defend a new ontology of special relativistic particle dynamics that makes this insight perspicuous and I explain how alleged cases of mass–energy conversion can be accommodated within that ontology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10817-10846
Number of pages30
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Energy
  • Mass
  • Ontology
  • Special relativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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