The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays by Morris R. Cohen

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

4
EINSTEIN AND HIS WORLD

IT IS NATURAL for us to be interested in the views of great men on issues outside of the field in which they have achieved their distinction--in what Shakespeare, for instance, thought about Catholicism and Protestantism, or in what Goethe thought about the freedom of the press and the future of the working classes. Yet the example of the incomparable Newton, as well as of contemporaries like Millikan and Eddington, should warn us against assuming that those who achieve great things in physical science will necessarily display unusual wisdom in politics and religion. It is not merely that devotion to science leaves men little time to acquire comparable knowledge on these more complicated subjects. When Harvey suggested that Newton pay less attention to his theosophic and theologic speculations, the latter proudly rebuked him: "Sir, I have given these subjects prolonged study." But the result of this study, as seen in Newton's commentary on the Book of Daniel and on the Apocalypse, is a striking indication of how highly specialized is human genius.

The foregoing reflections should not lead us to deny or to diminish the inherent value of the book before us, which in fact contains a number of truly noble expressions of human feeling seasoned with shrewd wisdom. But the importance of the subjects discussed requires us to be especially on guard to judge the issues on their own merits. It is fair also to remember

____________________
Published in The Menorah Journal, Vol. 24 p. 107 (Spring 1936), as a review of Albert Einstein, The World As I See It.

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