"No prior geometry" and the group field theory vehicle Atyy recently pointed us to a provocative quote from MTW: Mathematics was not sufficiently refined in 1917 to cleave apart the demands for "no prior geometry" and for a geometric, coordinate-independent formulation of physics. Einstein described both demands by a single phrase, "general covariance." The "no prior geometry" demand actually fathered general relativity, but by doing so anonymously, disguised as "general covariance", it also fathered half a century of confusion. page 431 in Gravitation by Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, and John Archibald Wheeler (1973) Freeman. In case someone wants to backtrack here's where it came up: Here's another thought-provoking recent comment by Atyy from a different thread: I'd like to comment on these ideas and perhaps others would as well.