Friday, March 25, 2016

Einstein on the Philosophy of Science.


Albert Einstein quoted by Prof. Don A. Howard in "Albert Einstein as a Philosopher of Science":
"In a 1936 article entitled 'Physics and Reality,' he [i.e. Einstein] explained why the physicist cannot simply defer to the philosopher but must be a philosopher himself:
'It has often been said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher do the philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing to do at a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental concepts and fundamental laws which are so well established that waves of doubt can’t reach them; but it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have become problematic as they are now. At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of theoretical foundations; for he himself knows best and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for a new foundation, he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities'."



Outrageous as it may sound to methodologists (of the mainstream and of the fringe), Einstein did not believe the scientist had to come, hat in hand, to ask the blessing of the Privileged Kibbitzer, the Philosopher of Science, before starting his/her work: he/she "knows best and feels more surely where the shoe pinches".

In that view, there is no place for bouncers in the party of science (pace, Sir Karl); no amateurish judges of "scientificity" required (pace, Mrs. Robinson).

In Howard's account, independence of judgment was of paramount importance for Einstein, for his "own experience had taught him that creative theorizing could not be replaced by an algorithm for building and testing theories".

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Alas, you don't need to side with Einstein on this. If socialist ideas disqualify his scientific work -- in your view -- Einstein may not be your cup of tea: as you know, he had socialist sympathies.

You can side with Sir Karl Popper, as both Austrian economists and internet post Keynesians do. Obviously, as aristocrats they are inherently immune to "metaphysics"; they cannot fall victim of ideology. Right?

That's why Lord Keynes' scientific work is at least on a par with Einstein's -- "the naughty Jew boy". Yes?

References:
Howard, Don. (2005) Albert Einstein as a Philosopher of Science. Physics Today. Vol 58. No. 12. p. 34-40 (freely available)

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