Lot 243
  • 243


30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • A highly important draft of a letter from Albert Einstein to Moritz Schlick, the German philosopher, physicist
Autograph letter signed ("A.E.") in German, 2 pp. (8 5/8 x 11 1/8 in.; 219 x 283 mm) on a single sheet, Berlin, circa 28 November 1930; some toning, short clean splits to old fold.


This document is indeed a draft of a typed letter sent by Einstein (from Berlin) to Moritz Schlick (in Vienna) on 28 November 1930 (Albert Einstein Archives, TLC, 3. p., 21-603)

Catalogue Note

An incredible letter from Einstein to the founding father of logical positivism  In 1915 Schlick published a paper on Einstein's special theory of relativity, a topic that was only only ten years old at the time. Following this, the two physicists were in frequent correspondence until Schlick's death in 1936. "Dear Mr. Schlick!," Einstein begins warmly. "I read your work immediately and found it to be correct in the main." As this lengthy letter progresses, Einstein makes his position on several theories and figures clear. "From a general point of view, your presentation does not conform to my conception insofar as I find your whole conception too positivistic," he explains to Schlick. "Physics does indeed provide relations between sensory experiences, but only indirectly. Her nature is by no means exhaustively marked in this statement."

In general, the tone of this remarkable letter is philosophical, and it is probable, then, that the work Einstein first refers to is Schlick's "Die Wende der Philosophie" (or "The Turning Point in Philosophy"), originally published in Erkenntnis in 1930. "I'll tell you straight out: Physics is a (metaphysical) attempt to conceptualize a model of the real world and its lawful structure," Einstein expounds. "However, it must accurately represent the empirical relations between the sensory experiences available to us; but only then is she chained to the latter. I, too, admire the achievements of quantum theory in Schrödinger-Heisenberg-Dirac's style, but I firmly believe that this way of looking at things will not and cannot be done for the long term. This theory does not provide any model of the real world at all." 

The statements offered in this draft of correspondence are truly remarkable, as they help elucidate in a candid and concise manner, Einstein's philosophy of science. He finishes his letter to Schlick: "You will be surprised about the "metaphysical" Einstein. But every 4- and 2-legged animal is de facto a metaphysician in this sense." 

A phenomenal letter, intimately illuminating Einstein's personal philosophy of science