Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Albert Einstein

German-born American Physicist, Humanitarian, Philosopher

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."

"The only rational way of educating is to be an example - if one can't help it, a warning example."

"The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder."

"The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence - these are the features of Jewish tradition which make me thank my stars that I belong to it."

"The school should always have as its aim that the young man leave it as a harmonious personality, not as a specialist. This in my opinion is true in a certain sense even in technical schools.... The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgment should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge."

"The special theory of relativity... creates a formal dependence between the way in which the spatial co-ordinates on the one hand, and the temporal co-ordinates, on the other, have to enter into the natural laws."

"The State is made for man, not man for the State."

"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

"There exists a passion for comprehension, just as there exists a passion for music. That passion is rather common in children but gets lost in most people later on. Without this passion, there would be neither mathematics nor natural science."

"There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking."

"Those who rage today against the ideals of reason and of individual freedom, and seek to impose an insensate state of slavery by means of brutal force, rightly see in the Jews irreconcilable opponents."

"To make clear fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them for the fast in the emotional life of an individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of a man... They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities."

"To my mind, to kill in war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder."

"True human progress is based less on the inventive mind than on the conscience."

"Truth resembles a statue of marble which stands in the desert and is continuously threatened with burial by the shifting sand."

"Unless the cause of peace based on law gathers behind it the force and zeal of a religion, it hardly can hope to succeed."

"What is the sense of our life? What is the sense of the life of any living being at all? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: What is the sense of putting this question at all? I answer: He who feels that his own life or that of his fellow-beings is senseless is not only unhappy, but hardly capable of living."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked By the laughter of the gods."

"You see, God always takes the simplest way."

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person."

"A conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order. This firm belief, a belief bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God."

"A human being is part of the whole called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self [ego]. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

"Any government is in itself an evil insofar as it carries within it the tendency to deteriorate into tyranny."

"As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists."

"God is subtle, but he is not malicious."

"God who creates and is nature, is very difficult to understand, but He is not arbitrary or malicious."

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

"I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence - as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."

"It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service."

"It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and the morally good. Otherwise, he – with his specialized knowledge – more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community."

"Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being."

"Most people see what is, and never see what can be."

"Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it."

"No great discovery was ever made in science but by one who lifted his nose above the grindstone of details and ventured on a more comprehensive vision."

"One can organize to apply a discovery already made, but not to make one. Only a free individual can make a discovery."

"Only two things are infinite the universe and human stupidity and I'm not sure about the former."

"Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore."

"Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem – in my opinion – to characterize our age."

"Science has brought this danger, but the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men. We will not change the hearts of other men by mechanisms, but by changing our hearts and speaking bravely… When we are clear in heart and mind – only then shall we find courage to surmount the fear which haunts the world."

"The distinctions separating the social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force."

"The essence of the Jewish concept of life seems to me to be the affirmation of life for all creatures. For the life of the individual has meaning only in the service of enhancing and ennobling the life of every living thing. Life is holy; i.e., it is the highest worth on which all other values depend."

"The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

"The idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible."

"The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty and truth."

"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."

"The more cruel the wrong that men commit against an individual or a people, the deeper their hatred and contempt for their victim. Conceit and false pride on the part of a nation prevent the rise of remorse for its crime."

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery – even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their primitive forms are accessible to our minds – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitutes true religiosity; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

"The unleased power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

"Time is not all what it seems. It does not flow in only one direction, and the future exists simultaneously with the past."