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In Praise of the Tamed Metaphysicist: Einstein on Reality, Rationality, and the Human Passion for Comprehension, by Brain Pickings

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Einstein, who first contacted that “passion for comprehension” in his formative experience with a compass, writes:

There exists a passion for comprehension, just as there exists a passion for music. That passion is rather common in children, but gets lost in most people later on. Without this passion, there would be neither mathematics nor natural science. Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally, by pure thought, without any empirical foundations — in short, by metaphysics. I believe that every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist, no matter how pure a “positivist” he may fancy himself. The metaphysicist believes that the logically simple is also the real. The tamed metaphysicist believes that not all that is logically simple is embodied in experienced reality, but that the totality of all sensory experience can be “comprehended” on the basis of a conceptual system built on premises of great simplicity. The skeptic will say that this is a “miracle creed.” Admittedly so, but it is a miracle creed which has been borne out to an amazing extent by the development of science.

The passion for knowledge?

More than knowledge: understanding.

Understanding is much, much harder. 

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