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The Epistemic Virtues of the Virtuous Theorist: On Albert Einstein and His Autobiography

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Epistemic Virtues in the Sciences and the Humanities

Part of the book series: Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science ((BSPS,volume 321))

Abstract

Albert Einstein’s practice in physics and his philosophical positions gradually reoriented themselves from more empiricist towards rationalist viewpoints. This change accompanied his turn towards unified field theory and different presentations of himself, eventually leading to his highly programmatic Autobiographical Notes in 1949. Einstein enlisted his own history and professional stature to mold an ideal of a theoretical physicist who represented particular epistemic virtues and moral qualities. These in turn reflected the theoretical ideas of his strongly mathematical unification program and professed Spinozist beliefs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See in this regard also Tai and van Dongen 2016; Tai 2017.

  2. 2.

    For the sub-discipline’s history, see Jungnickel and McCormmach 1986.

  3. 3.

    See for example how young Werner Heisenberg related to Einstein and the latter’s recollections in the mid-1920s: Heisenberg [1974] 1989, in particular 113–114.

  4. 4.

    For a more extensive account of this aspect, see van Dongen 2010a.

  5. 5.

    Einstein to Louis de Broglie, 8 February 1954, as quoted in van Dongen 2010a, 2.

  6. 6.

    Einstein to Paul Ehrenfest, 16 September 1925, as quoted in van Dongen 2007, 117.

  7. 7.

    Einstein to Michele Besso, 28 August 1918 (Speziali 1979, 81).

  8. 8.

    Holton 1968, 1969; for a nuanced treatment of Einstein’s relation to realism and empiricism, see also Howard 1993.

  9. 9.

    Einstein to David Bohm, 24 November 1954, as quoted in van Dongen 2010a, 181–182; for more on Einstein and ‘simplicity’, see also Howard 1998.

  10. 10.

    Einstein to Michele Besso, 25 December 1925 (Speziali 1979, 215–216).

  11. 11.

    Einstein to André Lichnerowicz, January 1954, as quoted in van Dongen 2010a, 5.

  12. 12.

    Einstein to Max Born, 12 May 1952 (Born et al. 1971, 188–189).

  13. 13.

    Einstein to Louis de Broglie, 8 February 1954, as quoted in van Dongen 2010a, 2–3; emphasis as in original.

  14. 14.

    Einstein to Maurice Solovine, 23 December 1938 (Einstein 1956, 76).

  15. 15.

    As in Einstein 1950, 13; on this article, see particularly also Sauer 2014.

  16. 16.

    Einstein to Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, April 1929, on p. 49 in Jammer 1999.

  17. 17.

    Einstein, 1930, interview cited in Jammer 1999, p. 69.

  18. 18.

    Einstein in unpublished essay document, dated 1931. Albert Einstein Archives, Jerusalem, entry no. 2–110; emphasis as in original.

  19. 19.

    Einstein to David Bohm, 24 November 1954, on pp. 181–182 in van Dongen 2010a.

  20. 20.

    Einstein to Maurice Solovine, 1 January 1951 (Einstein 1956, 102–104).

  21. 21.

    Einstein to B[?] F[?], 17 December 1952, quoted as in Jammer 1999, 122; see also Holton 2005.

  22. 22.

    “Immediately given” is a term used by Einstein, see e.g. his letter to Moritz Schlick, 21 May 1917 (Schulmann et al. 1998, 456–457).

  23. 23.

    This point was debated at the excellent conference ‘Theoretical Virtues in Theory Choice’, 12–14 July 2012, at the Zukunftskolleg of the University of Konstanz.

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van Dongen, J. (2017). The Epistemic Virtues of the Virtuous Theorist: On Albert Einstein and His Autobiography. In: van Dongen, J., Paul, H. (eds) Epistemic Virtues in the Sciences and the Humanities. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, vol 321. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-48893-6_5

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