Science is an “actual, fact-based world,” he writes; and nothing that cannot actually be proven is science .
Einstein early developed a great interest in the observation of nature, the beauty and symmetry of which was compelling to him. He instinctively believed that there is a complete rationality to the universe and that its logical order precluded its being random. He took up the task of unravelling and understanding...
Einstein early developed a great interest in the observation of nature, the beauty and symmetry of which was compelling to him. He instinctively believed that there is a complete rationality to the universe and that its logical order precluded its being random. He took up the task of unravelling and understanding the workings of this cosmic plan to further the progress and knowledge of mankind. Although his quest was a scientific one, the questions Einstein considered were ones of concern to philosophers as well as scientists. In fact, Einstein admired philosopher David Hume and credited him as an influence on his scientific thinking, thus in Einstein’s mind mixing the two disciplines. Hume and his successor Immanuel Kant held that we can only know what we experience. Other philosophers, as well as theologians, were not content to stop their inquiries there and sought to understand causality. Thus Einstein, philosophers and theologians all sought to understand the order to the universe. Important questions arise as to what extent was Einstein’s work influenced by these other disciplines, to what degree did it overlap them, and how did he perceive their similarities and contrasts.
Einstein’s views on metaphysics are significant in answering these questions. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of reality, being and the world, by understanding causality and possibility, along with the nature of objects, properties, space and time. The term has also been used more loosely to refer to subjects that are beyond the physical world.
Einstein said that “it is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts” and determine “by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world…”“Science,” he believed, “can only ascertain what is, but not what should be…” In his “Remarks on Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Knowledge,” he stressed the need for science to be based on actual observation, taking the position that “In order that thinking might not degenerate into ‘metaphysics’, or into empty talk, it is only necessary that enough propositions of the conceptual system be firmly connected with sensory experience…” Here metaphysics is analogized to “talk” without enough facts behind it. Yet he ended this very essay by saying, “It finally turns out that one can, after all, not get along without metaphysics.” On another occasion he wrote, “Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally by pure thought without any empirical foundations—in short, by metaphysics.” However, he also recognized that “Anyone studying physics long enough is inevitably led into metaphysics.” Taken as a whole, we have a sense that Einstein saw both the distinctions and the relationship between these aspects of the disciplines of science and philosophy.
Jeannette Elizabeth van den Bergh van Dantzig was a Dutch Jew and author with whose family of scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, and metaphysical authors Einstein was familiar. She was the wife of George van den Bergh, politician, University of Amsterdam official, amateur astronomer and inventor. Both the van den Bergh and van Dantzig families suffered terribly in the Holocaust, and Jeannette, though she lost everything, managed to survive. Her husband wrote a memoir Two Times in Buchenwald, and reflecting on her experiences, in 1949 she published a work relating science and metaphysics entitled Arbitrary Moment: Aspects of Time and Space and their Relationships. She brought this book to Einstein’s attention.
I do not feel at home in specific metaphysical thinking, in which concepts have little connection with the actual, fact-based world
Typed Letter Signed on his blind embossed letterhead, Princeton, August 26, 1949, to Mrs. van der Bergh van Dantzig, who he warmly addresses as “My very dear Mrs. v.d.Begh v.Dantzig,” drawing the line between science and metaphysics once and for all. “The difficult experiences, the weight of which led you to the idea of your work, have made a considerable impression on me; also the method you use in speaking about it. I have read a portion of it, but I must admit, I did not get much out of it. I do not feel at home in specific metaphysical thinking, in which concepts have little connection with the actual, fact-based world. This circumstance is naturally caused by my profession, but nobody can stand in someone else’s shoes. I would attribute this lack of understanding entirely to my own limitations, if it were not for the fact that I know from my own experience that the originators of those kinds of systems of thinking tend to oppose each other, with no comprehension of each other’s systems.”
So the boundaries of science are facts, and no theory that cannot be factually proven can qualify. And since Einstein believed that “a theory can be proved by experiment,” no concept that cannot yield results observable by experiment can be considered scientific. That is why Einstein is not “at home” in metaphysics or in many other philosophical and theological contexts. In this letter, he also notes that proponents of thinking “in which concepts have little connection with the actual, fact-based world” cannot seem to agree with each other about the meaning of their ideas, a negation of a scientific approach where facts can be proven by experimentation and then agreed upon by all who take an honest view of the results.
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services