Remark of Albert Einstein
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
Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind.
E = mc²
The equivalency 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.”
Atomic Physics (1948) by the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, Ltd.
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…
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 if 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 legtitimated, 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
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…
Poem by Einstein on Spinoza (1920), as quoted in Einstein and Religion (1999) by Max Jammer “Einstein’s Poem on Spinoza” (with scans of original German manuscript) at Leiden Institute of Physics, Leiden University
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)
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
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 (12 December 1926); quoted in Einstein: The Life and Times ISBN 0-380-44123-3. This quote is commonly paraphrased “God does not play dice” or “God does not play dice with the universe”, and other slight variants.
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])
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.
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
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.”
As quoted in Einstein : Science and Religion by Arnold V. Lesikar
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.
“What Life Means to Einstein” in The Saturday Evening Post (26 October 1929)
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.
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.
As quoted in Glimpses of the Great (1930) by G. S. Viereck There have been disputes on the accuracy of this quotation.
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
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)
As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents… I congratulate you on the great successes of your life’s work.
Einstein’s letter to Nikola Tesla for Tesla’s 75th birthday (1931)
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
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 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 philosophising? 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)
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree…
The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
“Physics and Reality” (1936) as quoted in Einstein: A Biography (1954) by Antonina Vallentin, p. 24.
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.
As quoted in Disturbing the Universe (1979), by Freeman Dyson Ch. 5
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)
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.
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.
The Evolution of Physics (1938) (co-written with Leopold Infeld)
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.
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.
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…
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)
It is a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy.
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.
On the Golden ratio. Letter sent to Le Corbusier (1946); quoted in Modulor (1953)
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)
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.
United Nations radio interview recorded in Einstein’s study, Princeton, New Jersey, (1950)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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 localised 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
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
I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Letter to Harry S. Truman as quoted in ‘The culture of Einstein” by Alex Johnson at MSNBC (18 April 2005)
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)
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.