Saturday, June 11, 2011

Albert Einstein - Selected Writings and Quotes

On Education
My dear children: I rejoice to see you before me today, happy youth of a sunny and fortunate land. Bear in mind that the wonderful things that you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, and add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common. If you always keep that in mind you will find meaning in life and work and acquire the right attitude towards other nations and ages. (talking to a group of school children. 1934.)

On Freedom
1. Those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced by the least possible labor of all.
2. The satisfaction of physical needs is indeed the indispensable precondition of a satisfactory existence, but in itself it is not enough. In order to be content, men must also have the possibility of developing their intellectual and artistic powers to whatever extent accords with their personal characteristics and abilities.
The first of these two goals requires the promotion of all knowledge relating to the laws of Nature and the laws of social processes, that is, the promotion of all scientific endeavour. For scientific endeavour is a natural whole, the parts of which mutually support one another in a way which, to be sure, no one can anticipate.

The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit in general requires still another kind of freedom, which may be characterised as inward freedom. It is this freedom of spirit which consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudices as well as from unphilosophical routinizing and habit in general. This inward freedom is an infrequent gift of nature and a worthy objective for the individual.
..schools may favour such freedom by encouraging independent thought. Only if outward and inner freedom are constantly and consciously pursued is there a possibility of spiritual development and perfection and thus of improving man's outward and inner life. (1940)

On War and Politics
I am convinced that the great men, those whose achievements in howsoever restricted a sphere set them above their fellows, share to an overwhelming extent the same ideal. But they have little influence on the course of political events. It almost looks as if this domain on which the fate of nations depends has inescapably to be given over to the violence and irresponsibility of political rulers. (from a personal letter to Sigmund Freud written around 1931-32)

..the greatest obstacle to international order is that monstrously exaggerated spirit of nationalism which also goes by the fair-sounding but misused name of patriotism. During the last century and a half this idol has acquired an uncanny and exceedingly pernicious power everywhere. (1931)

The armament industry is indeed one of the greatest dangers that beset mankind. It is the hidden evil power behind the nationalism which is rampant everywhere ... (1934)

In two weeks the sheeplike masses of any country can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of excited fury that men are prepared to put on uniforms and kill and be killed, for the sake of the sordid ends of a few interested parties. Compulsory military service seems to me the most disgraceful symptom of that deficiency in personal dignity from which civilized mankind is suffering today. (1934)

We must not conceal from ourselves that no improvement in the present depressing situation is possible without a severe struggle; for the handful of those who are really determined to do something is minute in comparison with the mass of the lukewarm and the misguided. And those who have an interest in keeping the machinery of war going are a very powerful body; they will stop at nothing to make public opinion subservient to their murderous ends. (1934)

My part in producing the atomic bomb consisted in a single act: I signed a letter to President Roosevelt, pressing the need for experiments on a larger scale in order to explore the possibilities for the production of an atomic bomb.
I was fully aware of the terrible danger to mankind in case this attempts succeeded. But the likelihood that the Germans were working on the same problem with a chance of succeeding forced me to this step. I could do nothing else although I have always been a convinced pacifist. To my mind, to kill in war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder. (1952)

On capitalism
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of evil (1949)

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organised political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights. (1949)

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career. (1949)

On National Security
The ghostlike character of this development lies in its apparently compulsory trend. Every step appears as the unavoidable consequence of the preceding one. In the end, there beckons more and more clearly general annihilation.

On Religion, Ethics, and Morality
A man's ethical behaviour 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. (Religion and Science, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930)

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature. (The World as I See It)

There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. (1954)

The Nuremberg Trial of the German war criminals was tacitly based on the recognition of the principle: criminal actions cannot be excused if committed on government orders; conscience supersedes the authority of the law of the state. (1954)

On Human Rights
Realising the healthy international relations can be created only among populations made up of individuals who themselves are healthy and enjoy a measure a independence, the United Nations elaborated a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948. (1951)

In talking about human rights today, we are referring primarily to the following demands: protection of the individual against arbitrary infringement by other individuals or by the government; the right to work and to adequate earnings from work; freedom of discussion and teaching; adequate participation of the individual in the formation of his government. These human rights are nowadays recognized theoretically, although, by abundant use of formalistic, legal manoeuvres, they are being violated to a much greater extent than even a generation ago. (1954)


Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

The only real valuable thing is intuition.

A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.

I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.

Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.

No, this trick won't work...How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.

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.

You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once.

Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

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