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Книги по философии

Альберт Эйнштейн
The world as I see it

(страница 3)

A man's value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.

And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine--each was discovered by one man.

Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society--nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.

The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close political cohesion. It has been said very justly that GrФco-Europeo-American culture as a whole, and in particular its brilliant flowering in the Italian Renaissance, which put an end to the stagnation of mediФval Europe, is based on the liberation and comparative isolation of the individual.

Let us now consider the times in which we live. How does society fare, how the individual? The population of the civilized countries is extremely dense as compared with former times; Europe to-day contains about three times as many people as it did a hundred years ago. But the number of great men has decreased out of all proportion. Only a few individuals are known to the masses as personalities, through their creative achievements. Organization has to some extent taken the place of the great man, particularly in the technical sphere, but also to a very perceptible extent in the scientific.

The lack of outstanding figures is particularly striking in the domain of art. Painting and music have definitely degenerated and largely lost their popular appeal. In politics not only are leaders lacking, but the independence of spent and the sense of justice of the citizen have to a great extent declined. The democratic, parliamentarian regime, which is based on such independence, has in many places been shaken, dictatorships have sprung up and are tolerated, because men's sense of the dignity and the rights of the individual is no longer strong enough. In two weeks the sheep-like masses can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of excited fury that the men are prepared to put on uniform and kill and be billed, for the sake of the worthless aims of a few interested parties. Compulsory military service seems to me the most disgraceful symptom of that deficiency in personal dignity from which civilized mankind is suffering to-day. No wonder there is no lack of prophets who prophesy the early eclipse of our civilization. I am not one of these pessimists; I believe that better times are coming. Let me shortly state my reasons for such confidence.

In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the free development of the individual. But the development of machinery means that less and less work is needed from the individual for the satisfaction of the community's needs. A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development. In this way the community may regain its health, and we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.

Address at the Grave of H. A. Lorentz

It is as the representative of the German-speaking academic world, and in particular the Prussian Academy of Sciences, but above all as a pupil and affectionate admirer that I stand at the grave of the greatest and noblest man of our times. His genius was the torch which lighted the way from the teachings of Clerk Maxwell to the achievements of contemporary physics, to the fabric of which he contributed valuable materials and methods.

His life was ordered like a work of art down to the smallest detail. His never-failing kindness and magnanimity and his sense of justice, coupled with an intuitive understanding of people and things, made him a leader in any sphere he entered. Everyone followed him gladly, for they felt that he never set out to dominate but always simply to be of use. His work and his example will live on as an inspiration and guide to future generations.

H. A. Lorentz's work in the cause of International Co-operation

With the extensive specialization of scientific research which the nineteenth century brought about, it has become rare for a man occupying a leading position in one of the sciences to manage at the same time to do valuable service to the community in the sphere of international organization and international. politics. Such service demands not only energy, insight, and a reputation based on solid achievements, but also a freedom from national prejudice and a devotion to the common ends of all, which have become rare in our times. I have met no one who combined all these qualities in himself so perfectly as H. A. Lorentz. The marvellous thing about the effect of his personality was this: Independent and headstrong natures, such as are particularly common among men of learning, do not readily bow to another's will and for the most part only accept his leadership grudgingly. But, when Lorentz is in the presidential chair, an atmosphere of happy co-operation is invariably created, however much those present may differ in their aims and habits of thought. The secret of this success lies not only in his swift comprehension of people and things and his marvellous command of language, but above all in this, that one feels that his whole heart is in the business in hand, and that, when he is at work, he has room for nothing else in his mind. Nothing disarms the recalcitrant so much as this.

Before the war Lorentz's activities in the cause of international relations were confined to presiding at congresses of physicists. Particularly noteworthy among these were the Solvay Congresses, the first two of which were held at Brussels in 1909 and 1912. Then came the European war, which was a crushing blow to all who had the improvement of human relations in general at heart. Even before the war was over, and still more after its end, Lorentz devoted himself to the work of reconciliation. His efforts were especially directed towards the re-establishment of fruitful and friendly co-operation between men of learning and scientific societies. An outsider can hardly conceive what uphill work this is. The accumulated resentment of the war period has not yet died down, and many influential men persist in the irreconcilable attitude into which they allowed themselves to be driven by the pressure of circumstances. Hence Lorentz's efforts resemble those of a doctor with a recalcitrant patient who refuses to take the medicines carefully prepared for his benefit.

But Lorentz is not to be deterred, once he has recognized a course of action as the right one. The moment the war was over, he joined the governing body of the "Conseil de recherche," which was founded by the savants of the victorious countries, and from which the savants and learned societies of the Central Powers were excluded. His object in taking this step, which caused great offence to the academic world of the Central Powers, was to influence this institution in such a way that it could be expanded into something truly international. He and other right-minded men succeeded, after repeated efforts, in securing the removal of the offensive exclusion-clause from the statutes of the "Conseil." The goal, which is the restoration of normal and fruitful co-operation between learned societies, is, however, not yet attained, because the academic world of the Central Powers, exasperated by nearly ten years of exclusion from practically all international gatherings, has got into a habit of keeping itself to itself. Now, however, there are good grounds for hoping that the ice will soon be broken, thanks to the tactful efforts of Lorentz, prompted by pure enthusiasm for the good cause.

Lorentz has also devoted his energies to the service of international cultural ends in another way, by consenting to serve on the League of Nations Commission for international intellectual co-operation, which was called into existence some five years ago with Bergson as chairman. For the last year Lorentz has presided over the Commission, which, with the active support of its subordinate, the Paris Institute, is to act as a go-between in the domain of intellectual and artistic work among the various spheres of culture. There too the beneficent influence of this intelligent, humane, and modest personality, whose unspoken but faithfully followed advice is, "Not mastery but service," will lead people in the right way.

May his example contribute to the triumph of that spirit !

Название книги: The world as I see it
Автор: Альберт Эйнштейн
Просмотрено 29489 раз

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