Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Albert Einstein

German-born American Physicist, Humanitarian, Philosopher

"I can't believe that God plays dice with the universe."

"I do not at all believe in human freedom in the philosophical sense. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity."

"I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind."

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

"I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element; I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details."

"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor."

"In the first place, the human mind, no matter how highly trained, is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many tongues. The little child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books - a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind to God. And because I believe this, I am not an atheist."

"In war it serves that we may poison and mutilate each other. In peace it has made our lives hurried and uncertain. Instead of freeing us in great measure from spiritually exhausting labor, it has made men into slaves of machinery, who for the most part complete their monotonous long days' work with disgust and must continually tremble for their poor rations."

"It is a nationalism whose aim is not power but dignity and health. If we did not have to live among intolerant, narrow-minded and violent people, I should be the first to throw over all nationalism in favor of universal humanity."

"It is characteristic of the military mentality that non-human factors... are held essential, while the human being, his desires and thoughts - in short, the psychological factors - are considered as unimportant and secondary."

"It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty."

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

"It seems hard to sneak a look at a God's cards. But that he plays dice and uses "telepathic" methods (as the present quantum theory requires of him) is something that I cannot believe for a single moment."

"It was the experience of mystery - even if mixed with fear - that engendered religion."

"It was the scientists who first made true democracy possible, for not only did they lighten our daily tasks but they made the finest works of art and thought, whose enjoyment was until recently the privilege of the favored classes, accessible to all."

"Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized."

"Most mistakes in philosophy and logic occur because the human mind is apt to take the symbol for the reality."

"Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone."

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the unlimitable superior who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."

"No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment may at any time prove me wrong."

"Not until the creation and maintenance of decent conditions of life for all men are recognized and accepted as a common obligation of all men, shall we be able to speak of mankind as civilized."

"O Youth: Do you know that yours is not the first generation to yearn for a life of beauty and freedom? Do you know that all your ancestors felt as you do - and fell victim to trouble and hatred? Do you know, also, that your fervent wishes can only find fulfillment if you succeed in attaining love and understanding of men, and animals, and plants, and stars, so that every joy becomes your joy and every pain your pain? Open your eyes, your heart, your hands, and avoid the poison your forebears so greedily sucked in from History. Then will all the earth be your fatherland, and all your work and effort spread forth blessings."

"Of course, understanding of our fellow-beings is important. But understanding becomes fruitful only when it is sustained by sympathetic feeling in joy and sorrow."

"One may say ‘the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.’"

"Our schoolbooks glorify war and hide its horrors. They inculcate hatred in the veins of the children. I would teach peace rather than war. I would inculcate love rather than hate."

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

"Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth."

"Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury - to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind."

"Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the ‘old one’. I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing dice."

"Reason, of course, is weak, when measured against its never-ending task."

"Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary."

"Science has brought forth this danger [atomic energy], but the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men."

"Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense-experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought."

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"Some political and social activities of the Catholic Church are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole... [e.g.] the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation [is] a serious obstacle to peace."

"Taking an active part in the solution of the problems of peace is a moral duty which no conscientious man can shirk."

"The aim of education must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals, who, however, see in the service of community their highest life problem."

"The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while."

"The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and the noblest driving force behind scientific research."

"The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in a nation's life."

"The discovery of nuclear reactions need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than the discovery of matches."

"The environment is everything that isn't me."

"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

"The highest destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

"The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why. All great discoveries are made in this way."

"The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a mark of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and makes real advances in science."

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder, and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed... To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of devoutly religious men."

"The most important kind of tolerance is tolerance of the individual by society and the state."