physics_and_reality-albert_einstein - Physics and Reality by Albert Einstein Hosted by Prof M Kostic at www.kostic.niu.edu PHYSICS AND REALITY BY ALBERT

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PHYSICS AND REALITY. BY ALBERT EINSTEIN. (Translation by Jean Piccard.) § I. GENERAL CONSIDERATION CONCERNING THE METHOD OF SCmNCE. It has often been said, and certainly not without justi- fication, 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 philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing at a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental concepts and fundamental laws which are so well established that waves of doubt can not reach them; but, it can not 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 the theoretical foundations; for, he himself knows best, and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for a 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. The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of every day thinking. It is for this reason that the critical thinking of the physicist cannot possibly be restricted to the examination of the concepts of his own specific field. He cannot proceed without considering critically a much more difficult problem, the problem of analyzing the nature of everyday thinking. On the stage of our subconscious mind appear in colorful succession sense experiences, memory pictures of them, repre- sentations and feelings. In contrast to psychology, physics treats directly only of sense experiences and of the " under- standing " of their connection. But even the concept of the Copyright, 1936 , by Albert Einstein. 349
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35 ° ALBERT EINSTEIN. [J. F. I. " real external world " of everyday thinking rests exclusively on sense impressions. Now we must first remark that the differentiation between sense impressions and representations is not possible; or, at least it is not possible with absolute certainty. With the discussion of this problem, which affects also the notion of reality, we will not concern ourselves but we shall take the existence of sense experiences as given, that is to say as psychic experiences of special kind. I believe that the first step in the setting of a " real external world " is the formation of the concept of bodily objects and of bodily objects of various kinds. Out of the multitude of our sense experiences we take, mentally and arbitrarily, certain repeatedly occurring complexes of sense impression (partly in conjunction with sense impressions which are interpreted as signs for sense experiences of others), and we attribute to them a meaning--the meaning of the bodily object. Considered logically this concept is not iden- tical with the totality of sense impressions referred to; but it is an arbitrary creation of the human (or animal):mlnd. On
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