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Spinoza and Einstein

Einstein's Poem About Spinoza

From Jammer, p. 43; the complete poem is available in German in the Appendix of the book.

How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.

Why Einstein Admires Spinoza

From a letter to Dr. Dagobert Runes, Sept. 8, 1932, Einstein Archive, reel 33-286, quoted in Jammer, pp. 44 - 45

When asked to write short essay on "the ethical significance of Spinoza's philosophy," Einstein replied:

I do not have the professional knowledge to write a scholarly article about Spinoza. But what I think about this man I can express in a few words. Spinoza was the first to apply with strict consistency the idea of an all-pervasive determinism to human thought, feeling, and action. In my opinion, his point of view has not gained general acceptance by all those striving for clarity and logical rigor only because it requires not only consistency of thought, but also unusual integrity, magnamity, and — modesty.

The God of Einstein and Spinoza

From a letter to Eduard Büsching, Oct. 25, 1929, Einstein Archive, reel 33-275, quoted in Jammer, p. 51:

When its author sent a book There Is No God to Einstein, Einstein replied that the book did not deal with the notion of God, but only with that of a personal God. He suggested that the book should be titled There Is No Personal God. He added further:

We followers of Spinoza see out God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul as it reveals itself in man and animal.It is a different question whether belief in a personal God should be contested. Freud endorsed this view in his latest publication. I myself would never engage in such a task. For such a belief seems to me to the lack of any transcendental outlook of life, and I wonder whether on can ever successfully render to the majority of mankind a more sublime means in order to satisfy its metaphysical needs.

Einstein's View of God — and Spinoza's

From a letter to Murray W. Gross, Apr. 26, 1947, Einstein Archive, reel 33-324, Jammer, p. 138 - 139:
When question about God and religion on behalf of an aged Talmudic scholar, Einstein replied:

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem — the most important of all human problems.

On Loving Your Enemies
From a letter to Michele Besso, Jan. 6, 1948. Albert Einstein—Michele Besso, Correspondance 1903-1955 (Hermann, Paris, 1972) , p. 392. Einstein Archive, reel 7-382, quoted in Jammer, p.87. Jammer gives the quotation in its original German along with an English translation. I have taken the liberty of cleaning up the English, mainly by replacing "cogitative" with "cognitive" as the translation of "gedanklich."

Upon a friend commending the Christian maxim "Love they enemy" Einstein replied:

I agree with your remark about loving your enemy as far as actions are concerned. But for me the cognitive basis is the trust in an unrestricted causality. 'I cannot hate him, because he must do what he does.' That means for me more Spinoza than the prophets.


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