Sunday, April 23, 2017

Albert Einstein and the scientific method

Albert Einstein is a famous physicist best known for developing relativity theory and his contributions to quantum mechanics. Einstein is also known for his contributions to the philosophy of science. Physicist Eugen Wigner says,
For a man like Edward Teller, developing the details of a physics problem was passionately important. For Einstein, it was not. In all spheres of life, Einstein's greatest pleasure was in finding, and later expressing, basic principles. (The Recollections of Eugene P. Wigner)
This post is a collections of quotes from Einstein describing his philosophy of science.

What is the scientific method?

"Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction. For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought. Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. To look for related facts means holding onto what one has instead of searching for new facts. Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge." (Quoted in Einstein and the Poet by William Hermanns)

"There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them."(On the Method of Theoretical Physics, 1933)

Support for epistemology

"When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching - that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not just their quick-wittedness - I can affirm that they had a vigorous interest in epistemology." (Obituary for physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, 1916)

Science is infinite

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." (Quoted in János : The Story of a Doctor by János Plesch)

"Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at once because of his huge dimension." (Letter to Heinrich Zangger, 1914)

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