Science and Religion
Science and Religion
Source for the Spinoza Reference
The quotation above may be Einstein's most familiar statement of his beliefs. These words are frequently quoted, but a citation is seldom given. The quotation can be found in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp (The Open Court Publishing Co., La Salle, Illinois, Third Edition, 1970) pp. 659 - 660. There the source is given as the New York Times, 25 April 1929, p. 60, col. 4. Ronald W. Clark (pp. 413-414) gives a detailed account of the origin of Einstein's statement:
You might want to take this quotation with a grain of salt. According to Brian, the Americanized German Viereck became known as a "big-name hunter" after "capturing" Kaiser Wilhelm II; Premier Georges Clemenceau of France; Henry Ford; Sigmund Freud, the inventor of psychoanalysis; and the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Because of his desire to interview the great and because of his inordinate egotism, Freud accused him of having a "superman complex." Upton Sinclear referred to him as "a pompous liar and hypocrite," and George Bernard Shaw questioned his accuracy.
Is the quotation authentic? For what it's worth, here it is.
When asked whether he believes in the God of Spinoza, Einstein is supposed to have replied as follows:
Did Einstein actually say this? The nonsense phrase "mysterious force that moves the constellations" troubles me. This seems much more likely to have been inserted by the scientifically ignorant Viereck than it does something that Einstein would say.
The Viereck interview with Einstein appeared first in the Saturday Evening Post (Oct. 26, 1929, p.17) under the title "What Life Means to Einstein."It is curious that Einstein's statement about Spinoza does not appear in that article. Did Viereck choose not include it? Did Einstein object to its inclusion in the article? Or was the Spinoza material removed by the editors?
I have chosen to enter the quotation on this page, because it is found in several places on the net. Perhaps someone who has seen it elsewhere, can learn here that there is some question about the accuracy of the statement.
The quotation may not be completely inauthentic. It seems improbable that Viereck could have recorded Einstein's answer verbatim during an interview. Surely Viereck would have taken brief abbreviated notes that he expanded later. Or perhaps he jotted down the conversation at some time afterwards, putting down Einstein's answers from memory. In neither case would you expect 100% accuracy.
I don't think that Viereck would have made up the statement out of whole cloth. What would be the point? The quotation is not particularly striking. There's nothing that Viereck could regard as a coup in obtaining. The quotation is merely a statement of views that Einstein was not shy about expressing and would later express again at many other times and in many other ways.
The simile of the child in a library seems like the quintessential Einstein. It is not something that Viereck would or could make up. Einstein's praise of Spinoza for treating body and soul as a single unit seems genuine too, and unlikely to be a creation of Viereck.
Material from the Viereck interview is reproduced in Brian and also in Jammer. Both books are based on extensive research, but neither book reports that Einstein ever disavowed anything attributed to him by George Viereck. In fact Brian reports that Einstein confirmed part of the interview. See Brian pp. 277 - 278.
Is the quotation something that Einstein really said? Maybe not — at least not exactly in the words that Viereck attributes to him. Nevertheless, the quotation seems to be consistent with Einstein's views. Certain elements of the quotation could come from no one but Einstein. While the statement may not be exactly verbatim, it cannot differ very greatly from what Einstein actually said.
Edited by Arnold V. Lesikar,
Dept. of Physics, Astronomy, and Engineering Science,
St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498
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