was a German-American physicist
. He is best-known for his Special and General Theories of Relativity
, but contributed in other areas of physics. He became famous for his explanation of the photoelectric effect
(for which he received the Nobel Prize). As a Jewish scientist he had to flee from Nazi Germany, but it should be noted that he did not believe in traditional notions of a personal god, but rather perceived God to be a "superpersonal" entity, in ways that he declared to be inspired by Baruch Spinoza
's and Arthur Schopenhauer
's ideas. He also asserted that the Jewish scriptures
, Gautama Buddha
and other religious figures were important guides for the ethical advancement of humanity.
- A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.
- "My Future Plans" an essay written at age 17 for school exam (18 September 1896) The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 1 (1987) Doc. 22
- E = mc²
- The equivalence of matter and energy was originally expressed by the equation m = L/c², which easily translates into the far more well known E = mc² in Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? published in the Annalen der Physik (27 September 1905) : "If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/c²."
- In a later statement explaining the ideas expressed by this equation, Einstein summarized: "It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E = mc², in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent, according to the formula mentioned before. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally."
- We shall therefore assume the complete physical equivalence of a gravitational field and a corresponding acceleration of the reference system.
- How does it happen that a properly endowed natural scientist comes to concern himself with epistemology? Is there not some more valuable work to be done in his specialty? That's what I hear many of my colleagues ask, and I sense it from many more. But I cannot share this sentiment. When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching — that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not just their quick-wittedness — I can affirm that they had a vigorous interest in epistemology. They happily began discussions about the goals and methods of science, and they showed unequivocally, through tenacious defense of their views, that the subject seemed important to them .
Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. Thus they might come to be stamped as "necessities of thought," "a priori givens," etc. The path of scientific progress is often made impassable for a long time by such errors. Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analysing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. Thus their excessive authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, or replaced if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.
- Obituary for physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, Physikalische Zeitschrift 17 (1916)
- I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.
- Letter to Alfred Kneser (7 June 1918); Doc. 560 in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 8
- I have also considered many scientific plans during my pushing you around in your pram!
- Make a lot of walks to get healthy and don’t read that much but save yourself some until you’re grown up.
- Dear mother! Today a joyful notice. H. A. Lorentz has telegraphed me that the English expeditions have really proven the deflection of light at the sun.
- Postcard to his mother Pauline Einstein (1919)
- How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.
- We may assume the existence of an aether; only we must give up ascribing a definite state of motion to it, i.e. we must by abstraction take from it the last mechanical characteristic which Lorentz had still left it.
- On the irrelevance of the luminiferous aether hypothesis to physical measurements, in an address at the University of Leiden (May 5, 1920)
- What lead me more or less directly to the special theory of relativity was the conviction that the electromotive force acting on a body in motion in a magnetic field was nothing else but an electric field.
- Letter to the Michelson Commemorative Meeting of the Cleveland Physics Society as quoted by R.S.Shankland, Am J Phys 32, 16 (1964), p35, republished in A P French, Special Relativity, ISBN 0177710756
- Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht.
- Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.
- Remark made during Einstein's first visit to Princeton University. (April 1921) as quoted in Einstein (1973) by R.W. Clark, Ch. 14. "God is slick, but he ain’t mean" is a variant translation of this (1946) Unsourced variant: "God is subtle but he is not malicious."
- When asked what he meant by this he replied. "Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse." (Die Natur verbirgt ihr Geheimnis durch die Erhabenheit ihres Wesens, aber nicht durch List.) As quoted in Subtle is the Lord — The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982) by Abraham Pais einsteinandreligion.com
- Originally said to Princeton University mathematics professor Oscar Veblen, May 1921, while Einstein was in Princeton for a series of lectures, upon hearing that an experimental result by Dayton C. Miller of Cleveland, if true, would contradict his theory of gravitation. But the result turned out to be false. Some say by this remark Einstein meant that Nature hides her secrets by being subtle, while others say he meant that nature is mischievous but not bent on trickery. [The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, 2006]
- I have second thoughts. Maybe God is malicious.
- Quoted in Jamie Sayen, Einstein in America (1985). Said to Vladimir Bargmann, with the meaning that God leads people to believe they understand things that they actually are far from understanding. [The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, 2006]
- Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.
- Letter to Max Born (4 December 1926); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. This quote is commonly paraphrased "God does not play dice" or "God does not play dice with the universe", and other slight variants.
- Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.
- Objecting to the placing of observables at the heart of the new quantum mechanics, during Heisenberg's 1926 lecture at Berlin; related by Heisenberg, quoted in Unification of Fundamental Forces (1990) by Abdus Salam ISBN 0521371406
- By an application of the theory of relativity to the taste of readers, today in Germany I am called a German man of science, and in England I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be represented as a bête noire, the descriptions will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew for the Germans and a German man of science for the English! (To The Times (London), November 28, 1919, quoted in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice, 2005, ISBN 0-691-12075-7)
- Variant: If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew. (Address to the French Philosophical Society at the Sorbonne (6 April 1922); French press clipping (7 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 36-378] and Berliner Tageblatt (8 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 79-535])
- Variant translation: If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German and France will say I am a man of the world. If it's proven wrong, France will say I am a German and Germany will say I am a Jew.
- Variant: If relativity is proved right the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German and the Germans will call me a Jew.
- I am a Jew and glad to belong to the Jewish people
- Letter, 1920, to the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith
- Quoted in Einstein on Politics, ed. David Rowe & Robert Schulmann, ISBN 9780691120942
- I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
- In response the telegrammed question of New York's Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein in (24 April 1929): "Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid 50 words." Einstein replied in only 25 (German) words. Spinoza's ideas of God are often characterized as being pantheistic.
- Expanding on this he later wrote: "I can understand your aversion to the use of the term 'religion' to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza... I have not found a better expression than 'religious' for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason."
- If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.
- As quoted in "What Life Means to Einstein : An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck" in The Saturday Evening Post Vol. 202 (26 October 1929), p. 113 , also in Glimpses of the Great (1930) by George Sylvester Viereck
- I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
- As quoted in "What Life Means to Einstein : An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck" in The Saturday Evening Post Vol. 202 (26 October 1929), p. 117
- I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.
- Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
- Letter to his son Eduard (5 February 1930)
- To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.
- Aphorism for a friend (18 September 1930) [Einstein Archive 36-598]; as quoted in Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel (1988) by Banesh Hoffman
- I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
- Comment during an interview. Belgenland (December 1930).
- It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.
- Letter to Vegetarian Watch-Tower (27 December 1930)
- I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.
- Interview with George Sylvester Viereck (January 1931)
- I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.
- Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) by Albert Einstein, p. 97; also in Transformation : Arts, Communication, Environment (1950) by Harry Holtzman, p. 138
- For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible. Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have any hold on him.
- As quoted in Has Science Discovered God? : A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931) by Edward Howe Cotton, p. 101
- By the way, there are increasing signs that the Russian trials are not faked, but that there is a plot among those who look upon Stalin as a stupid reactionary who has betrayed the ideas of the revolution. Though we find it difficult to imagine this kind of internal thing, those who know Russia best are all more or less of the same opinion. I was firmly convinced to begin with that it was a case of a dictator's despotic acts, based on lies and deception, but this was a delusion.
- Letter to Max Born (no date, 1937 or 1938); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. Born commented: "The Russian trials were Stalin's purges, with which he attempted to consolidate his power. Like most people in the West, I believed these show trials to be the arbitrary acts of a cruel dictator. Einstein was apparently of a different opinion: he believed that when threatened by Hitler the Russians had no choice but to destroy as many of their enemies within their own camp as possible. I find it hard to reconcile this point of view with Einstein's gentle, humanitarian disposition."
- As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents... I congratulate you on the great successes of your life's work.
- Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do — but gravitation cannot be held responsible for it.
- Jotted (in German) on the margins of a letter to him (1933). As quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side : New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) ISBN 0691023689
- Unsourced variants: Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. / You can't blame gravity for falling in love.
- I am the one to whom you wrote in care of the Belgian Academy... Read no newspapers, try to find a few friends who think as you do, read the wonderful writers of earlier times, Kant, Goethe, Lessing, and the classics of other lands, and enjoy the natural beauties of Munich's surroundings. Make believe all the time that you are living, so to speak, on Mars among alien creatures and blot out any deeper interest in the actions of those creatures. Make friends with a few animals. Then you will become a cheerful man once more and nothing will be able to trouble you.
Bear in mind that those who are finer and nobler are always alone — and necessarily so — and that because of this they can enjoy the purity of their own atmosphere.
I shake your hand in heartfelt comradeship, E.
- Response to a letter from an unemployed professional musician (5 April 1933) as quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689
- The editors precede this passage thus, "Early in 1933, Einstein received a letter from a professional musician who presumably lived in Munich. The musician was evidently troubled and despondent, and out of a job, yet at the same time, he must have been something of a kindred spirit. His letter is lost, all that survives being Einstein's reply....Note the careful anonymity of the first sentence — the recipient would be safer that way:" Albert Einstein: The Human Side concludes with this passage, followed by the original passages in German.
- It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
- "On the Method of Theoretical Physics" The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933); also published in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1934), pp. 163-169. [thanks to Dr. Techie @ www.wordorigins.org and JSTOR]
- Variants: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.
- This is very similar to "Occam's Razor", with the addition that it warns about too much simplicity. Dubbed 'Einstein's razor, it is used when an appeal to Occam's razor results in an over-simplified explanation insufficient to meet needs or goals. It is also similar to one expression of what has become known as the "KISS principle": Keep It Simple, Stupid — but never oversimplify.
- There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
- "Atom Energy Hope is Spiked By Einstein / Efforts at Loosing Vast Force is Called Fruitless," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (29 December 1934) It was following the breakthroughs by Enrico Fermi and others did the use of nuclear power become plausible.
- It has often been said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher do the philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing to do a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental laws which are so well established that waves of doubt can't reach them; but it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have become problematic as they are now. At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of theoretical foundations; for he himself knows best and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for an new foundation, he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities.
- "Physics and Reality" in the Journal of the Franklin Institute Vol. 221, Issue 3 (March 1936)
- The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
- "Physics and Reality" in Journal of the Franklin Institute (March 1936) as quoted in Einstein: A Biography (1954) by Antonina Vallentin, p. 24.
- The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility… The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.
- One may say "the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."
- Out of My Later Years (1956) this rendition reads as if he is quoting or paraphrasing the statement of someone else — perhaps Immanuel Kant, whom he cites in the next sentence.
- One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.
- The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.
- As quoted in Speaking of Science (2000) by Michael Fripp
- All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
The essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular institutions was lost during the 19th century, to the point of senseless hostility. Yet there was never any doubt as to the striving for culture. No one doubted the sacredness of the goal. It was the approach that was disputed.
- "Moral Decay" (1937); Later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)
- Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.
What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living.
- Written statement (September 1937) as quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689
- I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and, also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.
- In a comment explaining why he joined the American Federation of Teachers local number 552 as a charter member (1938)
- Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth.
- Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.
- Statement on the occasion of Gandhi's 70th birthday (1939) Einstein archive 32-601, published in Out of My Later Years (1950).
- Frequently seen variant: Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
- Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.
- Letter to Morris Raphael Cohen, professor emeritus of philosophy at the College of the City of New York, defending the appointment of Bertrand Russell to a teaching position (March 19, 1940).
- Variant: : Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form.
- Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
- Letter to Barbara Lee Wilson (7 January 1943), Einstein Archives 42-606
- I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
- Letter to Robert A. Thorton, Physics Professor at University of Puerto Rico (7 December 1944) [EA-674, Einstein Archive, Hebrew University, Jerusalem]. Thorton had written to Einstein on persuading colleagues of the importance of philosophy of science to scientists (empiricists) and science.
- I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.
- Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (2 July 1945), responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert to Christianity, quoted in an article by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2, (1997)
- For the most part we humans live with the false impression of security and a feeling of being at home in a seemingly trustworthy physical and human environment. But when the expected course of everyday life is interrupted, we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from and not knowing whither they are drifting. But once we fully accept this, life becomes easier and there is no longer any disappointment.
- Letter (26 April 1945); as quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689
- The position in which we are now is a very strange one which in general political life never happened. Namely, the thing that I refer to is this: To have security against atomic bombs and against the other biological weapons, we have to prevent war, for if we cannot prevent war every nation will use every means that is at their disposal; and in spite of all promises they make, they will do it. At the same time, so long as war is not prevented, all the governments of the nations have to prepare for war, and if you have to prepare for war, then you are in a state where you cannot abolish war.
This is really the cornerstone of our situation. Now, I believe what we should try to bring about is the general conviction that the first thing you have to abolish is war at all costs, and every other point of view must be of secondary importance.
- Address to the symposium "The Social Task of the Scientist in the Atomic Era" at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (17 November 1946)
- Er ist eine Skala der Proportionen, die das Schlechte schwierig und das Gute leicht macht.
- It is a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy.
- I agree with your remark about loving your enemy as far as actions are concerned. But for me the cognitive basis is the trust in an unrestricted causality. 'I cannot hate him, because he must do what he does.' That means for me more Spinoza than the prophets.
- On the Christian maxim "Love thy enemy", in a letter to Michele Besso (6 January 1948)
- Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.
- As quoted by Virgil Henshaw in Albert Einstein: Philosopher Scientist (1949)
- I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.
- Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 September 1949), from article by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997)
- Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit... not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in what we believe is evil.
- For scientific endeavor is a natural whole the parts of which mutually support one another in a way which, to be sure, no one can anticipate.
- On scientific freedom and holism or holistic science, in Out of My Later Years (1950), p. 12 a collection of Einstein's essays which cover a period of 1934 to 1950.
- The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations.
- On religion and society, in Out of My Later Years (1950), p. 27.
- I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.
- Out of My Later Years (1950), p.13
- Everyone is aware of the difficult and menacing situation in which human society -- shrunk into one community with a common fate — now finds itself, but only a few act accordingly. Most people go on living their every-day life: half frightened, half indifferent, they behold the ghostly tragi-comedy which is being performed on the international stage before the eyes and ears of the world. But on that stage, on which the actors under the floodlights play their ordained parts, our fate of tomorrow, life or death of the nations, is being decided.
- "The Menace of Mass Destruction" in Out of My Later Years (1950)
- A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
- Letter of 1950, as quoted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post (28 November 1972). However, The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (Princeton University Press, 2005: ISBN 0691120749), p. 206, has a different and presumably more accurate version of this letter, which she dates to February 12, 1950 and describes as "a letter to a distraught father who had lost his young son and had asked Einstein for some comforting words":
- A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of piece of mind.
- I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.
- Statement upon joining the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club. (1950)
- Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.
- Letter to California student E. Holzapfel (March 1951) Einstein Archive 59-1013, quoted in Albert Einstein, the Human Side (1979) by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, and in The New Quotable Einstein (2005) by Alice Calaprice
- I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
- Letter to Carl Seelig (11 March 1952), Einstein Archives 39-013
- A truly rational theory would allow us to deduce the elementary particles (electron,etc.) and not be forced to state them a priori.
- Letter to Michele Besso (10 September 1952), Letter n°190, Correspondance, 1903-1955, by Pierre Speziali, Michele Angelo Besso, published by Hermann, 1972.
- It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
- Letter to an atheist (1954) as quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman ISBN 0691023689
- Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
- Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- The idea of achieving security through national armament is, at the present state of military technique, a disastrous illusion.
- Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- Development of Western Science is based on two great achievements — the invention of the formal logical system (in Euclidean geometry) by the Greek philosophers, and the discovery of the possibility to find out causal relationships by systematic experiment (during the Renaissance). In my opinion, one has not to be astonished that the Chinese sages have not made these steps. The astonishing thing is that these discoveries were made at all.
- Quoted in Cleopatra's Nose, Essays on the Unexpected, Daniel J Boorstin (1995), New York: Vintage Books, p3).
- Working on the final formulation of technological patents was a veritable blessing for me. It enforced many-sided thinking and also provided important stimuli to physical thought. [Academia] places a young person under a kind of compulsion to produce impressive quantities of scientific publications — a temptation to superficiality.
- As quoted in "Who Knew?" at NationalGeographic.com (May 2005)
- The reciprocal relationship of epistemology and science is of noteworthy kind. They are dependent on each other. Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is — insofar as it is thinkable at all — primitive and muddled.
- Contribution in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, P.A. Schilpp, ed. (The Library of Living Philosophers, Evanston, IL (1949), p. 684)
- I have found no better expression than "religious" for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism.
- Letter to Maurice Solovine, (1 January 1951) [Einstein Archive 21-174]; published in Letters to Solovine (1993)
- I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude, often directed solely to the practical and factual, in our education, has led directly to the impairment of ethical values. I am not thinking so much of the dangers with which technical progress has directly confronted mankind, as of the stifling of mutual human considerations by a "matter-of-fact" habit of thought which has come to lie like a killing frost upon human relations. ... The frightful dilemma of the political world situation has much to do with this sin of omission on the part of our civilization. Without "ethical culture," there is no salvation for humanity.
- "The Need for Ethical Culture" celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Ethical Culture Society (5 January 1951).
- Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down by the mind before you reach eighteen.
- As quoted in Mathematics, Queen and Servant of the Sciences (1952) by Eric Temple Bell
- Unsourced variant : Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
- The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them.
- Gutkind Letter (3 January 1954),
- If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.
- Letter to the editor of The Reporter about the situation of scientists in America (13 October 1954).
- Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
- Letter to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso, after learning of his death, (March 1955) as quoted in Science and the Search for God Disturbing the Universe (1979) by Freeman Dyson Ch. 17 "A Distant Mirror" ; also quoted at Einstein's God (NPR)
- The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.
- Statement to William Miller, as quoted in LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)
- Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.
- As quoted by LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)
- That is simple my friend: because politics is more difficult than physics.
- Response to being asked why people could discover atomic power, but not the means to control it, as quoted in The New York Times (22 April 1955)
- Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity.
- Helle Zeit, Dunkle Zeit: In Memoriam Albert Einstein (1956) edited by Carl Seelig, p. 71.
- When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.
- An explanation of relativity which he gave to his secretary Helen Dukas to convey to non-scientists and reporters, as quoted in Best Quotes of '54, '55, l56 (1957) by James B. Simpson; also in Expandable Quotable Einstein (2005) edited by Alice Calaprice
- This was also quoted by Steve Mirsky in Scientific American (September 2002). Vol. 287, Iss. 3; pg. 102, but within a satirical piece, where the "original source" is cited as being a fictitious magazine:
- Amazingly, the pretty girl/hot stove quote is actually the abstract from a short paper written by Einstein that appeared in the now defunct Journal of Exothermic Science and Technology (JEST, Vol. 1, No. 9; 1938).
- Paraphrased variant: Put your hand on a hot stove and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity.
- I just want to explain what I mean when I say that we should try to hold on to physical reality.
We are ... all aware of the situation regarding what will turn out to be the basic foundational concepts in physics: the point-mass or the particle is surely not among them; the field, in the Faraday-Maxwell sense, might be, but not with certainty. But that which we conceive as existing ("real") should somehow be localized in time and space. That is, the real in one part of space, A, should (in theory) somehow "exist" independently of that which is thought of as real in another part of space, B. If a physical system stretches over A and B, then what is present in B should somehow have an existence independent of what is present in A. What is actually present in B should thus not depend the type of measurement carried out in the part of space A; it should also be independent of whether or not a measurement is made in A.
If one adheres to this program, then one can hardly view the quantum-theoretical description as a complete representation of the physically real. If one attempts, nevertheless, so to view it, then one must assume that the physically real in B undergoes a sudden change because of a measurement in A. My physical instincts bristle at that suggestion.
However, if one renounces the assumption that what is present in different parts of space has an independent, real existence, then I don't see at all what physics is supposed to be describing. For what is thought to be a "system" is after all, just conventional, and I do not see how one is supposed to divide up the world objectively so that one can make statements about parts.
- "What must be an essential feature of any future fundamental physics?" Letter to Max Born; published in Albert Einstein-Hedwig und Max Born (1969) "Briefwechsel 1916-55"
- In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.
- Statement to German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Prince Hubertus zu Lowenstein around 1941, as quoted in his book Towards the Further Shore : An Autobiography (1968)
- Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.
- Response to atheist, Alfred Kerr (Winter 1927) who after deriding ideas of God and religion at a dinner party in the home of the publisher Samuel Fischer, had queried him "I hear that you are supposed to be deeply religious" as quoted in The Diary of a Cosmopolitan (1971) by H. G. Kessler , 1971)
- Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment — an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections.
- Autobiographical Notes (1979) Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp
- Then I would have felt sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct.
- As quoted in Reality and Scientific Truth : Discussions with Einstein, von Laue, and Planck (1980) by Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider, p. 74
- When asked by a student what he would have done if Sir Arthur Eddington's famous 1919 gravitational lensing experiment, which confirmed relativity, had instead disproved it.
- Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size.
- As quoted by Abraham Pais in Subtle is the Lord:The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (1982) ISBN 0-192-80672-6
- Deep religiosity... found an abrupt ending at the age of twelve, through the reading of popular scientific books.
- As quoted in Einstein, History, and Other Passions (1996), by Gerald Holton, p. 172
- Never memorize what you can look up in books.
- I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
- Even on the most solemn occasions I got away without wearing socks and hid that lack of civilisation in high boots.
- Albert Einstein in a letter to his cousin and second wife Elsa, during a visit to the University of Oxford, in collection donated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel by Einstein's stepdaughter Margot.
- quoted in "Einstein in no-sock shock", New Scientist (15 July 2006)
- It is high time the ideal of success should be replaced with the ideal of service ... Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
- As quoted in Wisdom for the Soul : Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing (2006) by Larry Chang, p. 330
- Unsourced variant : Only a life in the service of others is worth living.
Principles of Research (1918)
- Address at the Physical Society, Berlin, for Max Planck's 60th birthday
- In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside. Our Planck is one of them, and that is why we love him.
I am quite aware that we have just now lightheartedly expelled in imagination many excellent men who are largely, perhaps chiefly, responsible for the buildings of the temple of science; and in many cases our angel would find it a pretty ticklish job to decide. But of one thing I feel sure: if the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have come to be, any more than a forest can grow which consists of nothing but creepers. For these people any sphere of human activity will do, if it comes to a point; whether they become engineers, officers, tradesmen, or scientists depends on circumstances.
Now let us have another look at those who have found favor with the angel. Most of them are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other, in spite of these common characteristics, than the hosts of the rejected. What has brought them to the temple? That is a difficult question and no single answer will cover it.
- The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.
- Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
- Variant translation: One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought. With this negative motive goes a positive one. Man seeks to form for himself, in whatever manner is suitable for him, a simplified and lucid image of the world, and so to overcome the world of experience by striving to replace it to some extent by this image. This is what the painter does, and the poet, the speculative philosopher, the natural scientist, each in his own way. Into this image and its formation, he places the center of gravity of his emotional life, in order to attain the peace and serenity that he cannot find within the narrow confines of swirling personal experience.
- As quoted in The Professor, the Institute, and DNA (1976) by Rene Dubos; also in The Great Influenza (2004) by John M. Barry
- The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest.
Viereck interview (1929)
- "What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck" The Saturday Evening Post (26 October 1929) p. 17. As reported in Einstein — A Life (1996) by Denis Brian, when asked about a clipping from a magazine article reporting his comments on Christianity as taken down by Viereck, Einstein carefully read the clipping and replied, "That is what I believe."
- As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.
- Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.
- No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
Wisehart interview (1930?)
- Much reading after a certain age diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theaters is apt to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.
- M. K. Wisehart, A Close Look at the World's Greatest Thinker, American Magazine, June 1930
Religion and Science (1930)
- New York Times Magazine (November 9, 1930)
- Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us.
- The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer's outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even or life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
- The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, a development continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in peoples' lives. And yet, that primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that all religions are a varying blend of both types, with this differentiation: that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.
- Variant translation: It is easy to follow in the sacred writings of the Jewish people the development of the religion of fear into the moral religion, which is carried further in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially those of the Orient, are principally moral religions. An important advance in the life of a people is the transformation of the religion of fear into the moral religion.
- Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments, and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.
- The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
- How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.
- The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events — provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man's actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God's eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.
- Variant: "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere" has been cited as a statement that precedes the last three sentences here, but this might have originated in a paraphrase, a transcription error, or a misquotation; it does not appear in any editions of the essay which have thus far been checked.
- It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.
Mein Weltbild (1931)
- "Mein Weltbild" (1931) [My World-view, "My View of the World"] translated as the title essay "The World As I See It" from the book The World As I See It (1949).] Various translated editions have been published of this essay; or portions of it, including one titled "What I Believe"; another compilation which includes it is Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...
- In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do as he will, but not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.
- I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.
- Variant translation: I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind, of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific research, life would have seemed to me empty. The ordinary objects of human endeavor — property, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.
- My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities.
- I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude — a feeling which increases with the years.
- Variant translation: I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude...
- My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader.
- An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and Russia to-day.
- Variant translation: In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality...
- The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.
- This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.
- He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilisation should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
- The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.
- Variant translations: The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.
- The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties — this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.
- The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
- As quoted in Introduction to Philosophy (1935) by George Thomas White Patrick and Frank Miller Chapman, p. 44
- The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.
- He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
- I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.
- Variant translation: I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
- As quoted in his obituary in The New York Times (19 April 1955)
- It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.
- As quoted in Introduction to Philosophy (1935) by George Thomas White Patrick and Frank Miller Chapman, p. 44
- Variant translations:
- I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
- Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.
My Credo (1932)
- Speech to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin (Autumn 1932); as published in Einstein: A Life in Science (1994) by Michael White and John Gribbin This repeats or revises some statements and ideas of Mein Weltbild (1931). (Full text online)
- Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.
- I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer's words: “Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills” accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper.
- My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as did my aversion to any obligation and dependence I do not regard as absolutely necessary. I always have a high regard for the individual and have an insuperable distaste for violence and clubmanship.
All these motives made me into a passionate pacifist and anti-militarist. I am against any nationalism, even in the guise of mere patriotism. Privileges based on position and property have always seemed to me unjust and pernicious, as did any exaggerated personality cult.
- I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state.
Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.
- The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness.
In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.
Obituary for Emmy Noether (1935)
- Emmy Noether, letter to the Editor of The New York Times, published May 5, 1935 Full text online
- The efforts of most human-beings are consumed in the struggle for their daily bread, but most of those who are, either through fortune or some special gift, relieved of this struggle are largely absorbed in further improving their worldly lot. Beneath the effort directed toward the accumulation of worldly goods lies all too frequently the illusion that this is the most substantial and desirable end to be achieved; but there is, fortunately, a minority composed of those who recognize early in their lives that the most beautiful and satisfying experiences open to humankind are not derived from the outside, but are bound up with the development of the individual's own feeling, thinking and acting. The genuine artists, investigators and thinkers have always been persons of this kind. However inconspicuously the life of these individuals runs its course, none the less the fruits of their endeavors are the most valuable contributions which one generation can make to its successors.
- In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.
- Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.
Science and Religion (1941)
- Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York (1941); later published in Out of My Later Years (1950) Full text online
- It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.
- A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
- A conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs. On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors.
- Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Though I have asserted above that in truth a legitimate conflict between religion and science cannot exist, I must nevertheless qualify this assertion once again on an essential point, with reference to the actual content of historical religions. This qualification has to do with the concept of God. During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.
- Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.
- When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us. One need only think of the weather, in which case prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless no one doubts that we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us.
Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature.
- The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.
But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task.
- Science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.
The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
Only Then Shall We Find Courage (1946)
- New York Times Magazine (23 June 1946)
- Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that "a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels."
Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.
In light of new knowledge…an eventual world state is not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, it is necessary for survival... Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
- As the issues are greater than men ever sought to realize before, the recriminations will be fiercer and pride more desperately hurt. It may help to recall that many recognized before the bomb ever fell that the time had already come when we must learn to live in One World.
The stakes are immense, the task colossal, the time is short. But we may hope — we must hope — that man’s own creation, man’s own genius, will not destroy him. Scholars, indeed all men, must move forward in the faith of that philosopher who held that there is no problem the human reason can propound which the human reason cannot reason out.
Religion and Science: Irreconcilable? (1948)
- The Christian Register (June 1948); republished in Ideas and Opinions (1954) Full text online
- Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, given rise to considerable dispute and, indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer. What complicates the solution, however, is the fact that while most people readily agree on what is meant by "science," they are likely to differ on the meaning of "religion."
- Science, in the immediate, produces knowledge and, indirectly, means of action. It leads to methodical action if definite goals are set up in advance. For the function of setting up goals and passing statements of value transcends its domain. While it is true that science, to the extent of its grasp of causative connections, may reach important conclusions as to the compatibility and incompatibility of goals and evaluations, the independent and fundamental definitions regarding goals and values remain beyond science's reach.
As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man's attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. These ideals religion attempts to attain by exerting an educational influence on tradition and through the development and promulgation of certain easily accessible thoughts and narratives (epics and myths) which are apt to influence evaluation and action along the lines of the accepted ideals.
- It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims.
- The moral attitudes of a people that is supported by religion need always aim at preserving and promoting the sanity and vitality of the community and its individuals, since otherwise this community is bound to perish. A people that were to honor falsehood, defamation, fraud, and murder would be unable, indeed, to subsist for very long.
- The great moral teachers of humanity were, in a way, artistic geniuses in the art of living.
- While religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. Everywhere, in economic as well as in political life, the guiding principle is one of ruthless striving for success at the expense of one's fellow men. This competitive spirit prevails even in school and, destroying all feelings of human fraternity and cooperation, conceives of achievement not as derived from the love for productive and thoughtful work, but as springing from personal ambition and fear of rejection.
There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachings are Utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs. The study of the social patterns in certain so-called primitive cultures, however, seems to have made it sufficiently evident that such a defeatist view is wholly unwarranted.
- While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza's Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements.
The World As I See It (1949)
- For the title essay in this work see Mein Weltbild (1931) above.
The Meaning of Life
- What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
Good and Evil
- The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self.
Society and Personality
- When we survey our lives and endeavors we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have grown, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.
- A man's value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.
And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine — each was discovered by one man.
Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society — nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.
The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close political cohesion.
- I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it.
Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?
Religion in Science
- You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe. But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.
Greeting to G. Bernard Shaw
- There are few enough people with sufficient independence to see the weaknesses and follies of their contemporaries and remain themselves untouched by them. And these isolated few usually soon lose their zeal for putting things to rights when they have come face to face with human obduracy. Only to a tiny minority is it given to fascinate their generation by subtle humour and grace and to hold the mirror up to it by the impersonal agency of art. To-day I salute with sincere emotion the supreme master of this method, who has delighted — and educated — us all.
Some Notes on my American Impressions
- first published as "My First Impression of the U.S.A." (1921)
- The cult of individual personalities is always, in my view, unjustified. To be sure, nature distributes her gifts variously among her children. But there are plenty of the well-endowed ones too, thank God, and I am firmly convinced that most of them live quiet, unregarded lives. It strikes me as unfair, and even in bad taste, to select a few of them for boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to them. This has been my fate, and the contrast between the popular estimate of my powers and achievements and the reality is simply grotesque. The consciousness of this extraordinary state of affairs would be unbearable but for one great consoling thought: it is a welcome symptom in an age which is commonly denounced as materialistic, that it makes heroes of men whose ambitions lie wholly in the intellectual and moral sphere. This proves that knowledge and justice are ranked above wealth and power by a large section of the human race. My experience teaches me that this idealistic outlook is particularly prevalent in America, which is usually decried as a particularly materialistic country.
- The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this.
- The United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed, if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.
Christianity and Judaism
- If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.
It is the duty of every man of good will to strive steadfastly in his own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so far as he can. If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being crushed and trampled under foot by his contemporaries, he may consider himself and the community to which he belongs lucky.
- The following quotes have been cited as being from The World As I See It but are not in later abridged editions of the original 1949 book and thus these citations are not yet confirmed.
- May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!
- Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.
- The state is made for man, not man for the state. And in this respect science resembles the state.
- Monthly Review New York (May 1949)
- Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
- The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. In so far as the labor contract is free what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
- I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
- The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor — not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.
- I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
- Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
- Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.
- Referring to the Monthly Review, in which the essay was published.
On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation (1950)
- Scientific American (April 1950)
- This is the reason why all attempts to obtain a deeper knowledge of the foundations of physics seem doomed to me unless the basic concepts are in accordance with general relativity from the beginning. This situation makes it difficult to use our empirical knowledge, however comprehensive, in looking for the fundamental concepts and relations of physics, and it forces us to apply free speculation to a much greater extent than is presently assumed by most physicists.
- I do not see any reason to assume that the heuristic significance of the principle of general relativity is restricted to gravitation and that the rest of physics can be dealt with separately on the basis of special relativity, with the hope that later on the whole may be fitted consistently into a general relativistic scheme. I do not think that such an attitude, although historically understandable, can be objectively justified. The comparative smallness of what we know today as gravitational effects is not a conclusive reason for ignoring the principle of general relativity in theoretical investigations of a fundamental character. In other words, I do not believe that it is justifiable to ask: What would physics look like without gravitation?
Out of My Later Years (1950)
- Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1954)
- Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions.
- I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.
- p. 39 - 17 July 1953 - unsent letter
- The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning.
- Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men and towards objective things.
- p. 46 - 30 July 47 - letter
- In my opinion, condemning the Zionist movement as "nationalistic" is unjustified. Consider the path by which Herzl came to his mission. Initially he had been completely cosmopolitan. But during the Dreyfus trial in Paris he suddenly realized with great clarity how precarious was the situation of the Jews in the western world. And courageously he drew the conclusion that we are discriminated against or murdered not because we are Germans, Frenchmen, Americans, etc. of the "Jewish faith" but simply because we are Jews. Thus already our precarious situation forces us to stand together irrespective of our citizenship.
Zionism gave the German Jews no great protection against annihilation. But it did give the survivors the inner strength to endure the debacle with dignity and without losing their healthy self respect. Keep in mind that perhaps a similar fate could be lying in wait for your children.
- It seems hard to sneak a look at God's cards. But that He plays dice and uses 'telepathic' methods... is something that I cannot believe for a single moment.
- p. 68 - letter to Cornel Lanczos, 21 Mar 1942
- Philosophy is like a mother who gave birth to and endowed all the other sciences. Therefore, one should not scorn her in her nakedness and poverty, but should hope, rather, that part of her Don Quixote ideal will live on in her children so that they do not sink into philistinism.
- There has been an earth for a little more than a billion years. As for the question of the end of it I advise: Wait and see!
- If the believers of the present-day religions would earnestly try to think and act in the spirit of the founders of these religions then no hostility on the basis of religion would exist among the followers of the different faiths. Even the conflicts and the realm of religion would be expoesed as insignificant.
- p. 96 - 27 Jan 47 - statement to Christian conference
Sidelights on Relativity (1983)
- ISBN 048624511X
- How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?
- One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.
- As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
- I never commit to memory anything that can easily be looked up in a book.
Einstein's God (1997)
- Einstein's God — Albert Einstein's Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God (1997) by Robert N. Goldman ISBN 1568219830
- The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.
- A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred then leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it.
In the case of a Christian clergyman, the tragic-comical is found in this: that the Christian religion demands love from the faithful, even love for the enemy. This demand, because it is indeed superhuman, he is unable to fulfill. Thus intolerance and hatred ring through the oily words of the clergyman. The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for a cake. That means that it contains the hope that the object of the love will be eaten up...
- Letter to Rabbi Solomon Goldman of Chicago's Anshe Emet Congregation
- If I would follow your advice and Jesus could perceive it, he, as a Jewish teacher, surely would not approve of such behavior.
- Reply to a Roman Catholic student urging him to pray to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and convert to Christianity.
- The fact that man produces a concept "I" besides the totality of his mental and emotional experiences or perceptions does not prove that there must be any specific existence behind such a concept. We are succumbing to illusions produced by our self-created language, without reaching a better understanding of anything. Most of so-called philosophy is due to this kind of fallacy.
- One has a feeling that one has a kind of home in this timeless community of human beings that strive for truth. … I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people.
- To take those fools in clerical garb seriously is to show them too much honor.
- Comment on the Union of Orthodox Rabbis after expelling a rabbi because of his disbelief in God as a personal entity.
- "I said before, the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mystically is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds."
- The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
- As quoted in Breakthrough : Israel in a Changing World (1996) by Gad Yaacobi, p. 98; though this is widely quoted in this form and the variant below, there has yet been no earlier source located for this remark than this 1996 book.
- Variant: The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
- As quoted in Conscious Courage : Turning Everyday Challenges Into Opportunities (2004) by Maureen Stearns, p. 99
- “Contempt prior to investigation is what enslaves a mind to Ignorance.”
- Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks... Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.
- Quoted in Time magazine (23 December 1940) page 38, but without attribution or any sort of context. William C. Waterhouse at eSkeptic indicates that in a letter to Count Montgelas (March 28, 1947), [Einstein Archives, item number 58-548] Einstein "explained that early in the Hitler years he had casually mentioned to some journalist that hardly any German intellectuals except a few churchmen were supporting individual rights and intellectual freedom. He added that this statement had subsequently been drastically exaggerated beyond anything that he could recognize as his own."
- Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.
- Variant: The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.
- These two statements are very similar, widely quoted, and seem to paraphrase some ideas in the essay "Religion and Science", but neither has been properly sourced. Notable Einstein scholars such as John Stachel and Thomas J. McFarlane (author of Buddha and Einstein: The Parallel Sayings) know of this statement but have not found any source for it. Any information on any definite original sources for these is welcome.
- This quote does not actually appear in "Albert Einstein: The Human Side" as is sometimes claimed.
- Evil is the absence of God.
- This statement has been attributed to others before Einstein; its first attribution to Einstein appears to have been in an email story that began circulating in 2004. See the Urban Legends Reference Pages for more discussion.
- Two things inspire me to awe: the starry heavens and the moral universe within.
- The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
- This is similar to a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "I never let my schooling get in the way of my education".
- There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there.
- You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.
- Dr. Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn't explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan.
- Die Astrologie ist eine Wissenschaft für sich. Aber eine wegweisende. Ich habe viel aus ihr gelernt und vielen Nutzen aus ihr ziehen können. Die physikalischen Erkenntnisse unterstreichen die Macht der Sterne über irdisches Geschick. Die Astrologie aber unterstreicht in gewissem Sinne wiederum die physikalischen Erkenntnisse. Deshalb ist sie eine Art Lebens-elixier für die Gesellschaft!
- English: Astrology is a science in itself and contains an illuminating body of knowledge. It taught me many things, and I am greatly indebted to it. Geophysical evidence reveals the power of the stars and the planets in relation to the terrestrial. In turn, astrology reinforces this power to some extent. This is why astrology is like a life-giving elixir to mankind.
- German quote attributed to Einstein in Huters astrologischer Kalender 1960 [A]
- Translated by Tad Mann, unidentified 1987 work
- Contradicted by Denis Hamel, The End of the Einstein-Astrology-Supporter Hoax, Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 31, No. 6 (Nov-Dec 2007), pp. 39-43
- Alice Calaprice, The Expanded Quotable Einstein: "Attributed to Einstein […] An excellent example of a quotation someone made up and attributed to Einstein in order to lend an idea credibility."
Einstein said on astrology: "The reader should note [Kepler's] remarks on astrology. They show that the inner enemy, conquered and rendered innocuous, was not yet completely dead." In his introduction to Carola Baumgardt's Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters, New York, Philosophical Library, 1951.
- If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination ... no more men!
- Probably from a beekeepers' protest in 1994 in Europe; according to Snopes.com, someone may have invented the phrase and attributed it to Einstein for political reasons.
- The most fundamental question we can ever ask ourselves is whether or not the universe we live in is friendly or hostile.
- This has been quoted in a relatively few places on the internet, but seems to have no earlier source than an obscure web essay "Reinventing Failure: Designing Success" by Harald Anderson, where the statement seems to have been a loose summation of Einstein's ideas rather than a quote: "Albert Einstein once commented that the most fundamental question we can ever ask ourselves is whether or not the universe we live in is friendly or hostile. He hypothesized that your answer to that question would determine your destiny.
- Quoted in Morris Berman: Coming to Our Senses (1989) pp. 41
- The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Quotes about Einstein
- Arranged alphabetically by author
- Like many other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him. ... It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions ... but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.
- Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. Those of us who are not so tall have to choose!
- Richard Feynman, as quoted in Collective Electrodynamics : Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism (2002) by Carver A. Mead, p. xix
- I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you.
- Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and on my arrival I was fully convinced that he understood it.
- Attributed to Chaim Weizmann, after a long trans-Atlantic journey; Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (6822) credits Nigel Calder, Einstein's Universe (1979); a slightly different version appears in David Bodanis, E=mc², which credits Carl Seelig, Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956), pp. 80–81