Einstein was weg van Spinoza

Er bestaan behoorlijk veel sites op internet waarop iets over Einsteins Spinoza-interesse nageschreven wordt. Ook op dit weblog heb ik het al enige malen over Einstein's liefde voor Spinoza gehad. In het blog Einstein's belief on (Spinoza's) God bracht ik op 2 nov. 2008 enkele aardige YouTube-video’s over dit onderwerp bijeen. En op 31 aug. 2008 bracht ik een blog met Einsteins gedicht over Spinoza.

     Albert Einstein lecturing at Princeton 

Een heel mooie webpagina is Speaking of Faith - Einstein’s God - een programma van American Public Media dat nog is te beluisteren en dat van fraaie informatie, illustraties en muziek is voorzien.

Maar de allermooiste ontdekte ik gisteren: een schitterende website over Einstein van AIP Center for History of Physics. Die hele website gewijd aan Einstein is ook als PDF te downloaden (omvang 3,5 Mb) en dan als e-book te raadplegen. Daarop staat o.a. het prachtige essay van Gerald Holton "Einstein's Third Paradise", dat eerder in Daedalus is gepubliceerd [Fall 2002, pp. 26-34]. Het geeft een indrukwekkende studie over de wijze waarop Einstein religieus is. Daarbij wordt met veel feiten aangegeven wat Spinoza voor Einstein betekende. Ik had hierover al veel opgestoken, maar zo uitvoerig als hier was ik het nog niet tegengekomen.

Het is een artikel van een omvang van ca 8 A4-tjes. Daarvan neem ik hieronder ca 20% over - het gedeelte waarin het met name gaat over Einstein en Spinoza. Ik verwijs echter graag naar het hele essay, waarin Einsteins kosmische, zowel wetenschappelijke drive als religieuze gevoelens (ineen) én zijn interesse voor Spinoza's Ethica van meer achtergrond wordt voorzien.

"Einstein's Third Paradise" by Gerald Holton
[first published in Daedalus (Fall 2002), pp. 26-34. Enige citaten […]

In 1929, Boston's Cardinal O'Connell branded Einstein's theory of relativity as "befogged speculation producing universal doubt about God and His Creation," and as implying "the ghastly apparition of atheism." In alarm, New York's Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein asked Einstein by telegram: "Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid 50 words." In his response, for which Einstein needed but twenty-five (German) words, he stated his beliefs succinctly: "I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind." The rabbi cited this as evidence that Einstein was not an atheist, and further declared that "Einstein's theory, if carried to its logical conclusion, would bring to mankind a scientific formula for monotheism." Einstein wisely remained silent on that point. […]

In another of his essays on religion, Einstein points to a plausible source for his specific formulations: "Those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with a truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect, and susceptible through the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one, and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza's amor dei intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements."

I believe we can guess at the first time Einstein read Baruch Spinoza's Ethics (Ethica Ordinae Geometrico Demonstrata), a system constructed on the Euclidean model of deductions from propositions. Soon after getting his first real job at the patent office, Einstein joined with two friends to form a discussion circle, meeting once or twice a week in what they called, with gallows humor, the Akademie Olympia. We know the list of books they read and discussed. High among them, reportedly at Einstein's suggestion, was Spinoza's Ethics, which he read afterwards several times more. Even when his sister Maja joined him in Princeton in later life and was confined to bed by an illness, he thought that reading a good book to her would help, and chose Spinoza's Ethics for that purpose.

By that time Spinoza's work and life had long been important to Einstein. He had written an introduction to a biography of Spinoza (by his son-in-law, Rudolf Kayser, 1946); he had contributed to the Spinoza Dictionary (1951); he had referred to Spinoza in many of his letters; and he even had composed a poem in Spinoza's honor. He admired Spinoza for his independence of mind, his deterministic philosophical outlook, his skepticism about organized religion and orthodoxy – which had resulted in his excommunication from his synagogue in 1656 – and even for his ascetic preference, which compelled him to remain in poverty and solitude to live in a sort of spiritual ecstasy, instead of accepting a professorship at the University of Heidelberg. Originally neglected, Spinoza's Ethics, published only posthumously, profoundly influenced other thinkers, such as Friedrich Schlegel, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Goethe (who called him "our common saint"), Albert Schweitzer, and Romain Rolland (who, on reading Ethics, confessed, "I deciphered not what he said, but what he meant to say"). For Spinoza, God and nature were one (deus sive natura). True religion was based not on dogma but on a feeling for the rationality and the unity underlying all finite and temporal things, on a feeling of wonder and awe that generates the idea of God, but a God which lacks any anthropomorphic conception. As Spinoza wrote in Proposition 15 in Ethics, he opposed assigning to God "body and soul and being subject to passions." Hence, "God is incorporeal" – as had been said by others, from Maimonides on, to whom God was knowable indirectly through His creation, through nature. In other pages of Ethics, Einstein could read Spinoza's opposition to the idea of cosmic purpose, and that he favored the primacy of the law of cause and effect – an all-pervasive determinism that governs nature and life – rather than "playing at dice," in Einstein's famous remark. And as if he were merely paraphrasing Spinoza, Einstein wrote in 1929 that the perception in the universe of "profound reason and beauty constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and in this sense alone, I am a deeply religious man."

Much has been written about the response of Einstein's contemporaries to his Spinozistic cosmic religion. For example, the physicist Arnold Sommerfeld recorded in Schilpp's volume that he often felt "that Einstein stands in a particularly intimate relation to the God of Spinoza." But what finally most interests us here is to what degree Einstein, having reached his Third Paradise, in which his yearnings for science and religion are joined, may even have found in his own research in physics fruitful ideas emerging from that union. In fact there are at least some tantalizing parallels between passages in Spinoza's Ethics and Einstein's publications in cosmology – parallels that the physicist and philosopher Max Jammer, in his book Einstein and Religion (1999), considers as amounting to intimate connections. For example, in Part I of Ethics ("Concerning God"), Proposition 29 begins: "In nature there is nothing contingent, but all things are determined from the necessity of the divine nature to exist and act in a certain manner." Here is at least a discernible overlap with Einstein's tenacious devotion to determinism and strict causality at the fundamental level, despite all the proofs from quantum mechanics of the reign of probabilism, at least in the subatomic realm.

There are other such parallels throughout. But what is considered by some as the most telling relationship between Spinoza's Propositions and Einstein's physics comes from passages such as Corollary 2 of Proposition 20: "It follows that God is immutable or, which is the same thing, all His attributes are immutable." In a letter of September 3, 1915, to Else (his cousin and later his wife), Einstein, having read Spinoza's Ethics again, wrote, "I think the Ethics will have a permanent effect on me."

Two years later, when he expanded his general relativity to include "cosmological considerations," Einstein found to his dismay that his system of equations did "not allow the hypothesis of a spatially closed-ness of the world [raeumliche Geschlossenheit]." How did Einstein cure this flaw? By something he had done very rarely: making an ad hoc addition, purely for convenience: "We can add, on the left side of the field equation a – for the time being – unknown universal constant, λ  ['lambda']." In fact, it seems that not much harm is done thereby. It does not change the covariance; it still corresponds with the observation of motions in the solar system ("as long as λ is small"), and so forth. Moreover, the proposed new universal constant λ also determines the average density of the universe with which it can remain in equilibrium, and provides the radius and volume of a presumed spherical universe.

Altogether a beautiful, immutable universe – one an immutable God could be identified with. But in 1922, Alexander Friedmann showed that the equations of general relativity did allow expansion or contraction. And in 1929 Edwin Hubble found by astronomical observations the fact that the universe does expand. Thus Einstein – at least according to the physicist George Gamow – remarked that "inserting λ was the biggest blunder of my life."

Max Jammer and the physicist John Wheeler, both of whom knew Einstein, traced his unusual ad hoc insertion of λ , nailing down that "spatially closed-ness of the world," to a relationship between Einstein's thoughts and Spinoza's Propositions. They also pointed to another possible reason for it: In Spinoza's writings, one finds the concept that God would not have made an empty world. But in an expanding universe, in the infinity of time, the density of matter would be diluted to zero in the limit. Space itself would disappear, since, as Einstein put it in 1952, "On the basis of the general theory of relativity . . . space as opposed to 'what fills space' . . . had no separate existence."

Even if all of these suggestive indications of an intellectual, emotional, and perhaps even spiritual resonance between Einstein's and Spinoza's writings were left entirely aside, there still remains Einstein's attachment to his "cosmic religion." That was the end point of his own troublesome pilgrimage in religiosity – from his early vision of his First Paradise, through his disillusionments, to his dedication to find fundamental unity within natural science, and at last to his recognition of science as the devotion, in his words, of "a deeply religious unbeliever" – his final embrace of seeming incommensurables in his Third Paradise.

[Hier het complete artikel]

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Om het blog helemaal compleet te maken...

3 sept. 2009 werd in Brazilië dit boek gelanceerd van prof. Roberto Leon Ponczek: Deus ou seja a Natureza: Spinoza e os novos paradigmas da Física [God of de Natuur: Spinoza en het nieuwe paradigma van de fysica]. Editora: EDUFBA (Editora da Universidade Federal da Bahia)
Book by Prof. Roberto Leon Ponczek, which describes the immense influence that the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza of Portugese ancestry had on Albert Einstein. [Klik op de cover voor méér info)


livro do Professor Roberto Leon Ponczek, descreve a imensa influência que o filósofo judeu de origem portuguesa Baruch Spinoza exerceu sobre Albert Einstein. Dividido em quatro partes (1) A filosofia de Spinoza e suas consequências para a Física; (2) Spinoza e Einstein e suas afinidades positivas: a teoria da relatividade; (3) Spinoza e Einstein e suas afinidades negativas: a teoria quântica; e (4) Uma pedagogia filosofante da Física, a obra apresenta uma pequena biografia, a filosofia e as teorias de Spinoza, além de reflexões históricas, pedagógicas e conceituais sobre o tema, constituindo uma revisão propositiva da Física e da Filosofia. [Van hier]

Dit boek van professor Roberto Leon Ponczek, beschrijft de enorme invloed die de joodse filosoof Baruch Spinoza uit Portugal had op Albert Einstein. Verdeeld in vier delen (1) De filosofie van Spinoza en de gevolgen ervan voor de natuurkunde (2), Spinoza en Einstein en hun positieve verwantschap: de relativiteitstheorie, (3) Spinoza en Einstein en hun negatieve affiniteiten: de quantumtheorie, en (4) een filosofische pedagogie van de natuurkunde, het boek is voorzien van een korte biografie, de filosofie en theorieën van Spinoza, en een historische, pedagogische en conceptuele reflectie over het onderwerp, welke een zinvolle evaluatie van de natuurkunde en de filosofie biedt. [Vertaling m.b.v. de Google vertaalmodule]

Voor wie Portugees lezen volgt hier nog een link naar een artikel van Roberto Leon Ponczek: Uma definição Geométrica e uma interpretação Física para os Atributos de Spinoza [Een geometrische definitie en een fysische interpretatie van Spinoza's attributen] [PDF]

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Zie Het deterministisch mensbeeld van spinozist Albert Einstein. Einstein & Spinoza, geestverwanten. Door: Koen Dortmans, In:  Filosofie Magazine, 2000, nr 5 [In z'n geheel op de website van FM te lezen]

Zie ook http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein


Albert Einstein - tshirt from Hirsute HistoryBaruch Spinoza - tee shirt from Hirsute History

Cartoons van http://hirsutehistory.com/]


Waar haal je de tijd vandaan om dat allemaal op te sporen en beknopt weer te geven, Stan! Ik vind dit blog heel substantieel. Je attendeert op de nieuwste ontwikkelingen inzake de erkenning van Spinoza's betekenis voor de fysica. Vooral het boek van Roberto Leon Ponczek wekt in sterke mate mijn nieuwsgierigheid, niet alleen omdat het ook in bibliografisch opzicht een kunstwerk is. Ik ben vast van plan eens contact op te nemen met deze Braziliaanse Spinoza-fan in Bahia om te discussieren over inertia bij Spinoza en Einstein.

Het bijzondere van Roberto Leon Ponczek is dat hij geen filosoof, maar natuurkundige is en al enige tijd met dit onderwerp bezig is. In 2005 promoveerde hij op "Spinoza e a Física: ressonâncias em Einstein e a proposta de uma pedagogia spinozista da Teoria da Relatividade [Spinoza en fysica: resonanties bij Einstein en het voorstel voor een spinozistische pedagogie van de Relativiteitstheorie]
Maar ja, dit soort feitjes achterhalen is nog wel iets anders dan er echt inhoudelijk mee bezig (kunnen) zijn.
Bijzonder is dat de natuurkundige Spinoza hier flink voor het voetlicht wordt gebracht, zo lijkt me.

Hij heeft mij inmiddels al laten weten dat hij in het tweede deel van zijn boek ook aandacht besteedt aan de traagheid bij Spinoza en mij dit deel in een nog te maken Engelse vertaling zal doen toekomen.

1. Dat Einstein de natuurconstante lambda in zijn relativiteitstheorie heeft ingevoerd om te voldoen aan Spinoza's God is hoogst interessant, maar ook verbazingwekkend en nogal speculatief, lijkt mij. Immers Spinoza gaat uit van een oneindige en eeuwige substantie, en Einstein van een onbegrensd maar eindig heelal. Dus alleen bij Einstein wordt een uitdijend heelal steeds leger, en bereikt bij oneindigheid de limiet van 0 inhoud, maar niet bij Spinoza, wannt overal is substantie.
2. Hoeveel Spinoza zat in Einstein? Bij mensen van dit formaat moet de zaak wel complex zijn. In 'Ideas and opinions' schrijft hij op blz 8: 'Schopenhauer's saying: "A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants", has been a very real inspiration to me since my youth. Schpenhauer dus, niet Spinoza. En op blz 19-20: 'During philosophy's childhood it was generally believed that it is possible to find everything which can be known by means of mere reflection .. Even in Spinoza and as late as in Hegel this prejudice seems still to have played the major role'. Spinoza's gemeenschappelijke noties lijkt Einstein hier even vergeten te hebben. Verderop, in het essay 'Science and religion' noemt hij Spinoza eenmaal, samen met Boeddha, na een definitie van een religieus persoon gegeven te hebben als iemand die 'liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value'.
3. Bertrand Russell ontmoette Einstein tijdens W.O.II in de V.S. in Princeton. Hoewel hij de grootste bewondering had voor het genie van Einstein - hij schreef een boekje over zijn relativiteitstheorie - en zij beiden bewondering hadden voor Spinoza, had hij weinig op met Einstein als filosoof Hij schrijft erover in zijn autobiografie: 'While in Princeton I came to know Einstein fairly well. I used to go to his house once a week to discuss with him and Gödel en Pauli. These discussions were in some ways disappointing, for, although all three of them were Jews and exiles, and, in intention cosmpolitans, I found that they all had a German bias towards metaphysics, and in spite of our utmost endeavours we never arrived at common premises from which to argue. Gödel turned out to be an unadulterated Platonist, and apparently believed that an eternal 'not' was laid up in heaven, where virtuous logicians might hope to meet it hereafter'.
4. Over Spinoza heeft Russell de volgende fraaie one-liner, na opgemerkt te hebben dat liefde en intellect slecht samengaan: 'What Spinoza calls 'the intellectual love of God' has seemed to me the best thing to live by, but I have not had even the somewhat abstract God that Spinoza allowed himself to whom to attach my intellectual love'.

Interessante informatie breng je, Adrie

Dat "the somewhat abstract God" in het Russell-citaat aan het eind van je reactie intrigeerde me? Spinoza's ABSTRACTE God? Ik ging eens zoeken en trof het volgende citaat dat uit Russells autobiografie zou komen:

"What Spinoza calls 'the intellectual love of God' has seemed to me the best thing to live by, but I have not had even the somewhat distant God that Spinoza allowed himself to whom to attach my intellectual love. I have loved a ghost."

[Citaat komt uit dit artikel:
http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1212&context=russelljournal ]

Daar staat dus op de plaats van 'abstract' de term 'distant' die mij overigens eveneens wat vreemd overkomt als typering van Spinoza's God.

Tot slot - is jou bekend de studie van Kenneth Blackwell, The Spinozistic Ethics of Bertrand Russell (Allen & Unwin, 1985)?

1. In de Autobiography,Vol. II, p 38 staat 'abstract' en niet 'distinct'. Het citaat wordt voorafgegaan door de bekentenis dat hij altijd de pijn van eenzaamheid voelde, die soms in de liefde voor een vrouw verdween. Hij haalt in hetzelfde deel nog een keer Spinoza aan, nu in een brief aan zijn geliefde Ottoline Morrell: 'Those who have produced stoic philosophies have all had enough to eat and drink. ... one's idealism must be robust and must fit in with the facts of nature; and that which is horrible in the actual world is mainly due to a bad system. Spinoza, always, is right in these thingd, to my mind.'
2. In feite was Russell alleen geïnteresseerd in Deel 4 en 5 van de Ethica, de eerste delen vond hij te verwaarlozen.
3. In het mooie essay 'Mysticism and Logic' geeft hij een aantal Spinoza-citaten:
'Mysticism maintains that all evil is illusory, and sometimes maintains the same view as regards good, but more often holds that all Reality is good. Both views are to be found in Heraclitus: "Good and ill are one," he says, but again, "To God all things are fair and good and right, but men hold some things wrong and some right."
A similar twofold position is to be found in Spinoza, but he uses the word "perfection" when he means to speak of the good that is not merely human.
[E2d6] "By reality and perfection I mean the same thing,"
he says; but elsewhere we find the definition:
[E4d1] "By good I shall mean that which we certainly know to be useful to us."
Thus perfection belongs to Reality in its own nature, but goodness is relative to ourselves and our needs, and disappears in an impartial survey. Some such distinction, I think, is necessary in order to understand the ethical outlook of mysticism: there is a lower mundane kind of good and evil, which divides the world of appearance into what seem to be conflicting parts; but there is also a higher, mystical kind of good, which belongs to Reality and is not opposed by any correlative kind of evil'.
3. Samenvattend: Russell verbond Spinoza met hooggestemde zaken: leifde, vrouwen, mystiek en het goede.
4. Hij schreef twee werken over de ethiek:
'On the elements of ethics' is gebaseerd op 'Principia Ethica' van zijn vriend G.E. Moore;
'Human society in ethics and politics' heeft een tamelijk praktische inslag. hij citeert aan het begin Hume, en zegt: 'Reason signifies the choice of the right means to an end that you wish to achieve. It has nothing whatever to do with the choice of ends'.
5. Het boek van Blackwell ken ik niet.

Max Jammer zegt in 'Einstein and religion' (Princeton Univ.Press, 1999) over de Einstein-Spinoza connectie, dat Einstein grote belangstelling voor Spinoza had, meer dan voor Kant wiens Kritik d. R. Vern. hij ook gelezen had, maar dat hij in 1932 herhaalde uitnodigingen afsloeg om, ter gelegenheid van de 300e geboortedag van Spinoza, een artikel te schrijven, omdat hij zich niet competent genoeg vond. Hij was vooral geïmponeerd door Spinoza's radicale determinisme, en door zijn opvatting van een onpersoonlijke God. Citaat uit het boek:

'Einstein was most influenced by Spinoza’s thesis of an
unrestricted determinism and the belief in the existence of
a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the harmony
and beauty of nature. In any case, these were the interpretations
that Einstein gave to Proposition 29 in the first part of Spinoza’s Ethics: “In rerum natura nullum datur contingens, sed omnia ex necessitate divinae naturae determinata sunt ad certo modo existendum, et corporandum” [In the nature of things nothing is contingent but all things are determined by the necessity of divine nature existing and operating in a certain mode], and to the expression
“divina natura” or “deus sive natura,” respectively. Unrestricted determinism, Einstein argued, does not admit a “God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creationand whose purposes are modeled after our own.”
Like Spinoza, Einstein denied the existence of a personal
God, modeled after the ideal of a superman as we would
say today. In accordance with Jewish thought, both Einstein
and Spinoza conceived of God as an abstract entity in
accordance with the biblical “Thou shalt not make unto
thee a graven image, or any likeness of any thing” (Exodus
20:4) and in accordance with Maimonides’ Third Principle of
Faith, “I firmly believe that . . . no bodily accidents apply
to Him, and that there exists nothing whatever [that] resembles

Zou met die "superior intelligence" Spinoza's Godsidee helemaal door Einstein begrepen zijn?