Sunday, July 16, 2017

I am only passionately curious/ Albert Einstein (1879-1955); quote collection

• In living through this "great epoch," it is difficult to reconcile oneself to the fact that one belongs to that mad, degenerate species that boasts of its free will. How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will! In such a place even I should be an ardent patriot!
— Letter to Paul Ehrenfest, early December 1914

• Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.
— Letter to Heinrich Zangger (1917)

• I was sitting in a chair in the patent office at Bern when all of sudden a thought occurred to me: If a person falls freely he will not feel his own weight. I was startled. This simple thought made a deep impression on me. It impelled me toward a theory of gravitation.
— Einstein in his Kyoto address (14 December 1922), talking about the events of "probably the 2nd or 3rd weeks" of October 1907

• May they not forget to keep pure the great heritage that puts them ahead of the West: the artistic configuration of life, the simplicity and modesty of personal needs, and the purity and serenity of the Japanese soul.
— Comment made after a six-week trip to Japan in November-December 1922, published in Kaizo 5, no. 1 (January 1923)

• 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 in the winter of 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"

• 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.
― 24 April 1929 in response to the telegrammed question of New York's Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein: "Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid 50 words." Einstein replied in only 27 (German) words. (The New York Times 25 April 1929)

• 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 cannot tell if I would have done any creative work of importance in music, but I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.

Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much 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 theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.

• I believe with Schopenhauer: We can do what we wish, but we can only wish what we must. Practically, I am, nevertheless, compelled to act as if freedom of the will existed. If I wish to live in a civilized community, I must act as if man is a responsible being. I know that philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crime; nevertheless, I must protect myself from unpleasant contacts. I may consider him guiltless, but I prefer not to take tea with him.

• I am not prepared to accept all his [Freud's] conclusions, but I consider his work an immensely valuable contribution to the science of human behavior. I think he is even greater as a writer than as a psychologist. Freud's brilliant style is unsurpassed by anyone since Schopenhauer.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

I am happy because I want nothing from anyone. I do not care for money. Decorations, titles or distinctions mean nothing to me. I do not crave praise. The only thing that gives me pleasure, apart from my work, my violin and my sailboat, is the appreciation of my fellow workers.

• I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.

• I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.
— "What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck". The Saturday Evening Post (26 October 1929)

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
— Letter to his youngest son Eduard (5 February 1930)

• School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports.
— First conversation (1930) – from Einstein and the Poet (1983)

• I believe that whatever we do or live for has its causality; it is good, however, that we cannot see through to it.
• The really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed.
— Interview with Rabindranath Tagore (14 April 1930), published in The Religion of Man (1930)

• 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 hope of reward after death.
— Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930

• Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.
— From a letter to Hermann Huth, Vice-President of the German Vegetarian Federation, 27 December 1930

• A dictatorship means muzzles all round and consequently stultification. Science can flourish only in an atmosphere of free speech.
— "Science and Dictatorship," in Dictatorship on Its Trial, by Eminent Leaders of Modern Thought (1930) - later as Dictatorship on Trial (1931)

• I believe in intuition and inspiration. …At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. 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.
• I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one?
— Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) by Albert Einstein

• 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...

I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of the labour of my fellow-men. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody, physically and mentally.

• 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.

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.
— "Mein Weltbild" (1931) ["My World-view", or "My View of the World" or "The World as I See It"], translated as the title essay of the book The World as I See It (1949)

• 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 Credo (1932) — Speech to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin (Autumn 1932)

Force always attracts men of low morality.
— The World As I See It (1934)

• I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.
— "Self-Portrait" (1936)

Body and soul are not two different things, but only two different ways of perceiving the same thing. Similarly, physics and psychology are only different attempts to link our experiences together by way of systematic thought.
— Aphorism (1937)

• The moral decline we are compelled to witness and the suffering it engenders are so oppressive that one cannot ignore them even for a moment. No matter how deeply one immerses oneself in work, a haunting feeling of inescapable tragedy persists. Still, there are moments when one feels free from one's own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments, one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable: life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only being.
— Letter to Queen Mother Elisabeth of Belgium (9 January 1939), asking for her help in getting an elderly cousin of his out of Germany and into Belgium.

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 (19 March 1940)

• People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live... [We] never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.
— In a letter to Otto Juliusburger, September 29, 1942

• "What is there to celebrate? Birthdays are automatic things. Anyway, birthdays are for children."
• Why is it nobody understands me and everybody likes me?
— As quoted in New York Times article "The Einstein Theory of Living; At 65 he leads the simplest of lives — and grapples with the most complex thoughts." (12 March 1944)

• 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.
— Religion and Science: Irreconcilable? (1948)

• A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.
— Letter to Dr. H. L. Gordon (May 3, 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)

• 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 peace of mind.
— Letter "to a distraught father who had lost his young son and had asked Einstein for some comforting words" (February 12, 1950)

[Variant: “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 feeling 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.”]

• I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
— Letter to Carl Seelig (11 March 1952)

• Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors appears to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.
— Article in Der Jungkaufmann, April 1952

• The strange thing about growing old is that the intimate identification with the here and now is slowly lost; one feels transposed into infinity, more or less alone, no longer in hope or fear, only observing.
— Letter to Queen Mother Elisabeth of Belgium (12 January 1953)

• ...the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.
— Einstein's tribute to Pablo Casals [a Spanish cellist and conductor] (30 March 1953)

• In the past it never occurred to me that every casual remark of mine would be snatched up and recorded. Otherwise I would have crept further into my shell.
— Letter to Carl Seelig (25 October 1953)

• To think with fear of the end of one's life is pretty general with human beings. It is one of the means nature uses to conserve the life of the species. Approached rationally that fear is the most unjustified of all fears, for there is no risk of any accidents to one who is dead or not yet born. In short, the fear is stupid but it cannot be helped.
— Letter to Eileen Danniheisser (1953)

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.
— Gutkind Letter (3 January 1954)

• I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
— Draft of a German reply to a letter sent to him in 1954 or 1955

• 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 Besso's family (March 1955) following the death of Michele Besso (aged 81), Einstein’s close friend

- source
* * *
On 17 April 1955, Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had previously been reinforced surgically by Rudolph Nissen in 1948.
Einstein refused surgery, saying: "I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly."
He died in Princeton Hospital early the next morning at the age of 76, having continued to work until near the end.

During the autopsy, the pathologist of Princeton Hospital, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, removed Einstein's brain for preservation without the permission of his family, in the hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made Einstein so intelligent.
Einstein's remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered at an undisclosed location.

Harvey also removed Einstein's eyes, and gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein's ophthalmologist. - source

“Albert Einstein was a very important part of my life – a lasting influence,” Henry Abrams, 82, said during an interview at his winter home west of Boynton Beach. “Having his eyes means the professor’s life has not ended. A part of him is still with me." - source]

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