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On the Rational Order of the World: a Letter to Maurice Solovine


Letters to Solovine, tr. by W. Baskin, New York 1987

March 30, 1952

Dear Solovine,

As always, I was delighted by your last letter. As for the changes proposed by you, I am in complete agreement. 

Carl Seelig is a good man. But he takes the task that he has undertaken far too seriously, alas, with the result that he bothers everyone. Tell him whatever you think best and pass over whatever you wish in silence. For it is not always good to be presented to the public nude – or rather neuter. Make your decisions but do not communicate them to me, for I do not wish to be mixed up, even indirectly, in this affair. I did of course answer a few positive requests.

Now I come to the most interesting point in your letter. You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way. One could (yes one should) expect the world to be subjected to law only to the extent that we order it through our intelligence. Ordering of this kind would be like the alphabetical ordering of the words of a language. By contrast, the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for instance, is wholly different. Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.

There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles”. Oddly enough, we must be satisfied to acknowledge the “miracle” without there being any legitimate way for us to approach it. I am forced to add that just to keep you from thinking  that – weakened by age – I have fallen pray to the parsons.

All of us here are well, including Margot, who thanks to her operation, has developed more resistance. In the elaboration of the nonsymmetrical field theory I have found an important complement which determines the general equations of the field a priori just as the simple principle of relativity determined the equations of gravitation.

With warmest regards to you both.

Your A. E.

I do not intend to go to Europe again in order to avoid being the central figure in a monkey farce. Besides, everything today is so close to each of us that there is less justification than ever for chasing after it.

A. Einstein, Letters to Solovine, translated by Wade Baskin, with an introduction by Maurice Solovine (New York: Philosophical Library, 1987), pp. 132-133.