Saturday, November 16, 2013

Einstein and Tagore Discussion


Einstein and Tagore in a discussion on the nature of knowledge and reality. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Einstein takes a realist position and Tagore a completely idealist one. (The terms idealist/realist used in the philosophical sense which is quite different from the sense in which they are generally used in political theory. Basically, the philosophical realists believe that there exists some reality "out there" which is independent of human mind and idealists believe that since everything is known to us through our minds we can not be sure about existence of such an external reality. Every thing we know is somehow shaped by our mind; to what degree we are in no position to determine.)

It's very tempting to relate idealism to some sort of subjectivism. So, I found it particularly interesting how Tagore even while maintaining the idealist stance articulates hows the concept like objective knowledge would still make sense.


EINSTEIN: I cannot prove scientifically that Truth must be conceived as a Truth that is valid independent of humanity; but I believe it firmly. I believe, for instance, that the Pythagorean theorem in geometry states something that is approximately true, independent of the existence of man. 


TAGORE: [...] In any case, if there be any Truth absolutely unrelated to humanity then for us it is absolutely non-existing.

It is not difficult to imagine a mind to which the sequence of things happens not in space but only in time like the sequence of notes in music. For such a mind such conception of reality is akin to the musical reality in which Pythagorean geometry can have no meaning. There is the reality of paper, infinitely different from the reality of literature. For the kind of mind possessed by the moth which eats that paper literature is absolutely non-existent, yet for Man’s mind literature has a greater value of Truth than the paper itself. In a similar manner if there be some Truth which has no sensuous or rational relation to the human mind, it will ever remain as nothing so long as we remain human beings.

EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!

P.S. Does anyone understands the context in which Einstein says the last line? Does he mean that he is more religious because he is a realist and Christianity subscribes to it?

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