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Einstein had the wrong philosophy for science but succeeded anyway

Posted by $ jbrenner 1 year, 8 months ago to Philosophy
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Researchers at the University of Edinburgh recently discovered a letter written by Albert Einstein in which Einstein writes that his theories were inspired by the 18th Century (subjectivist) philosopher, David Hume.

Here is an excerpt from Einstein’s letter:

You have correctly seen that this line of thought was of great influence on my efforts and indeed Ernst Mach and still much more Hume, whose treatise on understanding I studied with eagerness and admiration shortly before finding relativity theory…. It is very possible that without these philosophical studies I can not say that the solution would have come.

Hume definitely was not an Objectivist.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_H...
I am not endorsing Hume. I am trying to stimulate discussion similar to what Hugh Akston might have had with his star students Galt, D'Anconia, and Danneskjold.
SOURCE URL: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6721535/New-letter-reveals-Einsteins-Theory-Relativity-inspired-Scottish-philosopher-David-Hume.html


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    Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 1 year, 8 months ago
    Hello Jbrenner,
    Hume was better known in his time as an economist and historian. He was an empiricist of the enlightenment. His most recognized and controversial contribution to philosophy was his questioning of induction as an infallible source of fact.
    He reasoned that with the exception of math, if you could not prove something empirically one could not be certain. To prove that something existed, one needed to provide evidence through observation, but induction from observation was limited, e.g., one cannot say that all swans are white, just because one has never observed a black swan.

    I believe Rand's primary problem with Hume was that he was an influence on Kant. Kant, of course, took things too far in another direction, questioning the validity of observation and emphasized the influence of one's mind on the world as observed. He did not trust anyone to observe reality faithfully. He undercut man's conceptual and cognitive capacity. He undercut the faculty of reason.

    "If you observe that ever since Hume and Kant (mainly Kant, because Hume was merely the Bertrand Russell of his time) philosophy has been striving to prove that man’s mind is impotent, that there’s no such thing as reality and we wouldn’t be able to perceive it if there were—you will realize the magnitude of the treason involved." Ayn Rand, Return of the Primitive, The Anti-Industrial Revolution, A R Lexicon

    Good to see you are still fighting the good fight,
    OA
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  • Posted by Lucky 1 year, 8 months ago
    Knowledge advances by the use of proposition and experiment, thinking and observation.
    Human ideas are verified or falsified by recourse to human senses, these are not infallible.

    It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are.
    If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

    Richard Feynman, Cornell University Lecture, 1964
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 1 year, 8 months ago
    From what I've read, it was Hume's contention that one should not be restricted by past conclusions when investigating the future that influenced and encouraged Einstein to continue pursuing a logical path that was out of step with the accepted view of physics at the time. Einstein was at first highly skeptical of what he was discovering, and almost dropped what led him to the discovery of relativity, primarily because he was ridiculed and berated by other scholars who "knew better."

    I think Einstein would be laughing and sympathetic with the new generation of scholars who contend that Einstein might not have gotten relativity entirely right, as he would feel empathy for the abuse many of them take.
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  • Posted by dnr 1 year, 8 months ago
    After Einstein arrived in the US at Princeton he made no additional major advances in physics, but seeing that Quantum Mechanics did not follow the principles of General Relativity, he spent the rest of his life trying to find a way to refute how things operate at an atomic level different than at the macro level. He said "God does not play games," but in the sense of QM he certainly does. Einstein's contribution to science is huge, but it all happened in Germany, long before his arrival in the US. He still had a huge impact on society, but not in Physics, e.g., when asked if we should build a nuclear device.. The finding of Gravitation Waves validates sort of the last thing of Einstein postulated. Einstein made great contribution to physics, but got stuck on QM. He just couldn't bring the two together (theory of Everything) and in some ways we are still trying to do the same. I think that it is pretty well accepted that he wasted his time going up a blind alley, we should be careful not to do the same.
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    • Posted by lrshultis 1 year, 8 months ago
      To me it seems that Einstein was not opposed to quantum mechanics, which he considered valid, but rather the interpretation of it as in the Copenhagen Interpretation which made it look 'spooky' with non-locality, for instance. Due to the difficulty of knowing positions and motions of very small objects, the use of a probabilistic methods are needed.
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  • Posted by $ mshupe 1 year, 8 months ago
    I think its essential that Einstein knew of the need for, and importance of, philosophy. Another theoretical physicist, David Deutsch, who relies heavily on another philosopher, Karl Popper, who is much worse than Hume. Popper denies reality, and Deutsch's theories are equally irrational.
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    • Posted by $ 1 year, 8 months ago
      I am emphasizing the importance of philosophy for my nanotechnology minor program, to the criticism of some ... but none whose opinion matter to me.
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      • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
        For integration of knowledge, experience and observation to occur, one must study, not just what may reasonably relate to the problem to be solved, the passion to know or the invention to be invented but things outside that realm as well.
        There are values and clues in all things, good, bad and I dare say...ugly...if only to know that which is not valuable, not observable, not reasonable, not moral, not ethical or germane to one's quest.

        Yes, reason, experimentation, evidence and observation are necessary but when an experiment can't be devised, evidence and observation can't be reconciled and the morality of it can't be judged, one needs something to provide the motivation, the insight for that quantum leap in understanding the solution and how to attain it...I feel, that philosophy is a great help and the ultimate road to integration.

        This whole process is a reflection of self and the knowing of reality is the outcome.
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      • Posted by $ blarman 1 year, 8 months ago
        My favorite quote on this still comes from Jurassic Park: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." Philosophy is what guides the use of scientific knowledge. Otherwise we just end up the State Science Institute...
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        • Posted by $ 1 year, 8 months ago
          I could have easily gone down The State Science Institute path ... It has cost me in my career, but I'm glad that I didn't go down that path.
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          • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
            Technology going forward and it's relationship to humanity must be judged on the basis of: at what point will we yearn for things human made, at what point will we come to understand how humans might naturally evolve in the future and at what point will our technological meddling negate that natural evolution but also at what point will we cease to be human at all.

            We as a species, as a culture and as a community must have this discussion and decided what is valuable with humanity, what is valuable in our interactions with each other. Do you want to be served by a robot or by a live person, do you want to be physically in command of your car, your life, your every thought.
            Flawed as we might be, sometimes the highest value of living itself is based in our interactions with others and simply being human.
            Technology is valuable and makes our lives easier and more productive, but applied to the body, the brain and to knowledge and thought...I get the nagging impression that should we become perfect with technology...we may not be very happy, productive or appreciative of life at all.
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            • Posted by $ Maritimus 1 year, 8 months ago
              Hello, ouC,

              It seems to me pretty obvious that the underlying principles of life are survival, adaptation and procreation. Look at anything living and, I think, you can see it.

              Humans are definitely changing the environment they live in and thus creating new needs for different adaptations and survival. I am not thinking of "human caused" climate change!

              Instead, I wonder what will the evolution produce after homo sapiens? Will whatever that is be capable of transplanting themselves before the demise of our solar system? Thinking of survival!

              I think that it will still be one male one female who will mix their genes to procreate. Parthenogenesis is, in my opinion, a quick path to degeneration and extinction.


              Best wishes.
              Sincerely,
              Maritimus


              P.S. It is Carl that matters. Many of us old and ugly!
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              • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
                Laughing...My thought on human evolution are along the lines of what we have seen already. First bicameral, one blood type, then 2 the 3 then a fourth...and then, the biggest change of all...awareness of one's own awareness, self introspection.
                So, what might we evolve next...more use of the mind? smarter? or at least along those lines.
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                • Posted by $ Maritimus 1 year, 8 months ago
                  I dream of humans that can choose to be at different times a new Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Verdi, Heisenberg, Rand or Aristoteles.

                  Glad you laughed.
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                  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
                    Post Modern thoughtlessness ruined Art, theater and philosophy...I have the same dream...to take all the values we inherited from these greats and take it to the next level.
                    However, no one today could even come close to what they gave us...shame, it didn't have to be that way.
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                    • Posted by $ Maritimus 1 year, 8 months ago
                      From what I see, we do not do even remotely what we could to promote and encourage excellence. In fact, the main goal is equality. If you stick up, you will be punished. THE IS TO HELP EVERYBODY THE BE THE BEST THAT THEY CAN BE!! Isn't it?
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                      • Posted by $ Maritimus 1 year, 8 months ago
                        Sorry! Missed: GOAL ...
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                        • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
                          No...it's to cheapen the goal so that the most incompetent idiots can create art, like piss in a jar, create a play, so stupid no one gets it, except other dumb idiots, or establish a philosophy that makes no sense, doesn't work and has no connection to reality.

                          They completely dismantle the hierarchy of competence and blame old white men and create an equality of stupidity and incompetence.
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      • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
        Would you share with us how that nanotechnology is intended to be used and your thoughts on that subject.
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        • Posted by $ 1 year, 8 months ago
          I am putting together a tissue engineering test bed and the world's most precise 3d printer and bioprinter.
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          • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
            Now that is of high value to humanity.

            I envision for the future, mankind being able to print what ever one needs; food, cloths, shelter, independently but hopefully with the choice to enjoy human and nature made also.

            You may be interested in this: https://resonance.is/super-fast-3d-pr...
            My impression is that this is only a step away from what I envision. (above)
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            • Posted by $ 1 year, 8 months ago
              We are nearing the dawn of a new age with regard to being able to print in 3D that which we are able to conceptualize. I am going to capitalize on that opportunity as much as I can without compromising my values.
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              • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
                Now that is Admirable...John Galt would be proud.
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                • Posted by $ 1 year, 8 months ago
                  Perhaps. I haven't completed the invention yet. The parallels between my life and that of Quentin Daniels are remarkable. We both work at institutes of technology. My institute is an upstart that has achieved a lot in its short existence, but I constantly feel like I am patching holes with drywall in order to keep the doors open for business. I worked for a long time in the alternate energy business, some as a researcher and some as an entrepreneur ... before my customers got wooed into Obama and Solyndra, at which time I shrugged until better days came. Now those better days are here, and I am moving well toward an automated tissue engineering test bed business. I plan in terms of decades (a reference to Galt's speech), but realize that I may never see the full fruits of my work.

                  One of my former professors at The University of Michigan named Mark Burns pioneered a musical lock for triggering valves on lab-on-a-chip devices; I use that idea from Galt's lab and from Willy Wonka's inventing room as well.
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                  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
                    Very interesting work...especially the alternative energy stuff...would be nice if you shared that experience at some convenient point in a post.
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                    • Posted by $ 1 year, 8 months ago
                      A colleague named Albin Czernichowski was born in Poland and labored behind the Iron Curtain for many years before tasting freedom in his 50's; he was the heart of the company and a real John Galt. We could put any hydrocarbon into his plasma arc reactor and get syngas (CO and hydrogen) as an intermediate. My job was to prepurify the feed and design a process to convert the syngas into either fuel, energy, or preferably chemicals. We sold the business when it became clear that our guilt-ridden customers were going to solar (following Obama) to absolve their consciences from their guilt rather than biofuels.
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                      • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 1 year, 8 months ago
                        Shame...solar will not survive the future...first serious CME, EMP from the sun will destroy it...never mind a micro nova, (have posted 19 parts as of today just an hour ago) nor what we think the consequences are from a pole reversal...we just might be in for a 1. 2, punch with in the next 20/30 years...it doesn't look pretty.
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  • Posted by lrshultis 1 year, 8 months ago
    To me the most important part of the letter was:

    "Hume writes: 'The chief objection against all abstract reasoning is derived from the ideas of Space and Time. Ideas in everyday life may appear clear and intelligible, but when they pass through the scrutiny of the profound Sciences... they seem full of absurdity and contradiction.'"

    Which would be in accord with Hume. I will paraphrase Einstein for his belief that empiricism is the means to gain knowledge of objective reality (yes Einstein even used that term in the EPR paper). He said something like, it is time to bring the ideas of space and time down from the 'a priori' .
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  • Posted by ycandrea 1 year, 8 months ago
    I am reading a fiction book right now, Split Second, by Douglas E Richards. It covers a lot of physics by Einstein and it is mind boggling! Block universes, space time, etc. It is fascinating reading and I have an immense appreciation of Einstein's mind! (I have never had any experience with physics before).
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  • Posted by LarryHeart 1 year, 8 months ago
    Now that the Higgs field has been proven to create mass by slowing down Quarks causing resistance to acceleration and giving energy to the gluons that flit back and forth at the Sub atomic level.

    Maybe bending of time-space that we perceive as gravity can now be integrated with the Higgs field and how it crates mass. Should one of you do this please give credit for your inspiration coming from my writings. :)
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    • Posted by lrshultis 1 year, 8 months ago
      Mass also is involved in the necessity of resistance from slowing down without an acting force. Mass is kind of like a resistance to both accelerating and decelerating, I.e., inertia. Inertia has sometimes been described as an interaction of the total locally felt gravitational field of the whole observable Universe while the local gravitaion to local bodies is the mainly measured forces. The gravitation from the rest of the Universe would act like that inside of a massive shell with the gravitation everywhere cancelling out. But, that does not mean that there is no gravitational stuff to interact with a massive body inside the shell as inertia.
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