D O C U M E N T 1 1 9 J A N U A R Y 1 9 2 8 1 2 9 119. From Eduard Einstein Zurich, 3 January [1928][1] Dear Papa, I think it’s so kind that, in addition to your stressful activity, you still spend time engaging in fruitless discussions with your wayward son.[2] Unfortunately, I must increasingly abandon the hope of arriving at agreement with you in matters of mor- als. It seems that we have entirely different positions. (By which I do not in the least want to imply that both positions are justified.) An agreement is inconceivable so long as you insist on using your feeling as a yardstick. My basic principle is: in fundamental questions, feelings are in no way decisive. In third- or fourth-level questions, within modest limits, feelings may col- laborate under the strong direction of the understanding. If one allows feelings to decide, one cannot even talk a Christian out of his superstition. I plan a large-scale refutation of the new physics that is to be founded on the fact that I have the feeling that the Earth is at the center of the universe. Feelings are the most inconstant things in the world. Feelings can be arbitrarily produced and extinguished. For ex- ample, for the past six months I have seen in people nothing but hierarchy. I believe that the great privilege you accord to social feelings has its origin in cowardice. The feeling of belonging with others guarantees such a great certainty, doesn’t it? Your excessive inclination toward art and science arises from a certain inertia: art and science are in fact ways of releasing affects with less effort than “merely existing and functioning.” An analogy. Think of a toy locomotive. It runs with a spring that is wound up to drive the wheels. This spring is the affects. Now think of a toy lo- comotive, but a less precisely constructed one: it has a spring, a splendid spring, and also fully developed wheels, but the gears no longer mesh exactly, and it strug- gles to make the wheels turn. It may happen that the spring with the first gear no longer meshes with the following gears. There’s a gap there: the whole thing is a little loose. The locomotive now remains stubbornly immobile, whereas the spring runs at high speed. The children who wound it up wonder what’s wrong with the locomotive. Is it somehow broken? But the locomotive, freed, cries: How good it is! I feel completely free. That is something other than merely existing and func- tioning, less arduous, but far less hindered!
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