Einstein and Infeld on Physical Concepts


Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however they may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way to open the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all of the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth. [1: p.33]


[1] Einstein, Albert., Infeld, Leopold. The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta. Simon and Schuster (New York: 1938). https://archive.org/details/B-001-002-263/page/n47/mode/2up

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