5 2 D O C U M E N T 3 3 M A Y 1 9 1 9
An ihrem
finde ich viel Freude und gedenke es mir so nach und nach zu
eigen zu machen. Ich finde darin eine Art, die Dinge anzusehen, die mir sehr nahe
liegt. Auch Poincaré steht Ihnen nahe, den Study recht schlecht behandelt, indem
er ihn bei einer wirklich oberflächlichen Bemerkung über die praktische Bedeu-
tung der euklidischen Geometrie festnagelt. Poincare’s Darlegungen über die Stel-
lung der Geometrie im ganzen wissenschaftlichen System scheinen mir wesentlich
tiefer zu sein als die
Indem ich Ihnen von Herzen glücklichere Zeiten wünsche, bin ich herzlich grüs-
send Ihr ganz ergebener
A. Einstein.
ALS (GyBrU, Aut. XXI, 7: C, Nr. 1). Sass 1979, pp. 318–319. [74 264].
[1]Vaihinger was almost completely blind, and had recently lost a daughter (see Doc. 29).
[2]The consistent and recurring theme of liberation from the merely personal appears as early as
1897 in Einstein’s letter to Pauline Winteler (Vol. 1, Doc. 34), in his explanation for the motives lead-
ing to scientific work (Vol. 7, Doc. 7), in his activism on behalf of international intellectual coopera-
tion (see Vol. 7, Doc. 47), and in his autobiographical essay written in 1949 (Einstein 1979).
[3]Study 1914, a copy of which Einstein had lent him (see Doc. 29).
[4]Eduard Study criticized Vaihinger in Study 1914. He particularly derided Vaihinger’s exposition
of Kant’s subjective conceptions of space and time as published in Vaihinger 1912.
[5]Study was a realist opposed to various forms of positivism (see Doc. 29). The reference is most
likely to Molière’s use of literal and figurative slaps in many of his plays. An early German translation
of selected works by Molière was in Einstein’s personal library.
[6]Moritz Schlick (1882–1936), Privatdozent in philosophy at the University of Rostock; Schlick
1918. The Springer publishing house sent Einstein the work in manuscript form in spring 1917 (see
Vol. 8, entry of 3 April 1917 in Calendar).
[7]See, e.g., Vaihinger 1918, p. 24, where “proper fictions in the strictest sense of the word”
(“eigentliche Fiktionen im strengsten Sinne des Wortes”) are characterized as those “imaginative enti-
ties that not only contradict reality but that are contradictory in themselves (e.g., the concept of the
atom, of the thing-in-itself” (“Vorstellungsgebilde [… ], welche nicht nur der Wirklichkeit widerspre-
chen, sondern auch in sich selbst widerspruchsvoll sind (z.B. der Begriff des Atoms, des Dinges an
sich”). For further discussion, see Sass 1979, pp. 317–318.
[8]A week earlier, Vaihinger had assumed that Einstein was prepared to write an article for this
journal (see Doc. 29).
[9]Vaihinger 1918.
[10]Study had described Henri Poincaré’s “pure” pragmatism (see, e.g., Poincaré 1902, part 2) as
incomplete and superficial. He objected to Poincaré’s view that hypotheses in science ought to be
practical and subject to an economy of thought (Study 1914, pp. 53–54). Specifically, he criticized the
practical, primary importance accorded by Poincaré to geometrical notions as against physical expe-
rience. If, as a result of hypothetical novel experimental findings, one were compelled to choose
between the abandonment of Euclidean geometry and the modification of the laws of optics, and
admit that light does not propagate in a straight line, Poincaré takes it for granted that “everyone
would look upon this [latter] solution as the more advantageous” (“tout le monde regarderait cette
solution comme plus avantageuse”; Poincaré 1902, p. 93). Study accepted the first statement rather
than the second (Study 1914, pp. 115–116). He also objected to other pragmatic claims by Poincaré,
who had concluded that “whichever way we look at it, it is impossible to discover in geometric empir-
icism a rational meaning” (“de quelque façon qu’on se retourne, il est impossible de découvrir à
l’empirisme géométrique un sens raisonnable”; Poincaré 1902, p. 100). Study argued that the issue at
hand is not that of empiricism in geometry, but rather that of the role of geometry in empirical science:
“Poincaré fights against a phantom.” Study also attacked the uncritical attitude of contemporary read-
ers, enchanted by seemingly profound utterances in popular writings by famous mathematicians such
as Poincaré (Study 1914, pp. 117, 120).
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