Max Born

The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it, seems to me the deepest root of all that is evil in the world.

Max Born (11 December 18825 January 1970) was a German physicist and mathematician who became a British citizen, who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a number of notable physicists in the 1920s and 30s. He shared with Walther Bothe the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics, and was the grandfather of Olivia Newton-John.

QuotesEdit

Somewhere in our doctrine is hidden a concept, unjustified by experience, which we must eliminate to open up the road.
I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy.
It is true that many scientists are not philosophically minded and have hitherto shown much skill and ingenuity but little wisdom.
  • I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed. We do not find signposts at crossroads, but our own scouts erect them, to help the rest.
    • Experiment and Theory in Physics (1943), p. 44
  • If God has made the world a perfect mechanism, He has at least conceded so much to our imperfect intellect that in order to predict little parts of it, we need not solve innumerable differential equations, but can use dice with fair success.
    • "Einstein's Statistical Theories" in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1951) edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, p. 176
  • Can we call something with which the concepts of position and motion cannot be associated in the usual way, a thing, or a particle? And if not, what is the reality which our theory has been invented to describe?
    The answer to this is no longer physics, but philosophy.
    ... Here I will only say that I am emphatically in favour of the retention of the particle idea. Naturally, it is necessary to redefine what is meant. For this, well-developed concepts are available which appear in mathematics under the name of invariants in transformations. Every object that we perceive appears in innumerable aspects. The concept of the object is the invariant of all these aspects. From this point of view, the present universally used system of concepts in which particles and waves appear simultaneously, can be completely justified. The latest research on nuclei and elementary particles has led us, however, to limits beyond which this system of concepts itself does not appear to suffice. The lesson to be learned from what I have told of the origin of quantum mechanics is that probable refinements of mathematical methods will not suffice to produce a satisfactory theory, but that somewhere in our doctrine is hidden a concept, unjustified by experience, which we must eliminate to open up the road.
  • Intellect distinguishes between the possible and the impossible; reason distinguishes between the sensible and the senseless. Even the possible can be senseless.
    • The Voyage into the Dark (1961); also in My Life and Views (1968), p. 154
  • I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy. It has revolutionized fundamental concepts, e.g., abut space and time (relativity), about causality (quantum theory), and about substance and matter (atomistics). It has taught us new methods of thinking (complimentarity), which are applicable far beyond physics.
    • Statement of 1963, as quoted in Schrodinger : Life and Thought (1992) by Walter J. Moore, p. 1
  • The continuity of our science has not been affected by all these turbulent happenings, as the older theories have always been included as limiting cases in the new ones.
    • As quoted in Beyond Positivism and Relativism : Theory, Method, and Evidence (1996) by Larry Laudan, p. 259

Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance (1964)Edit

There are metaphysical problems, which cannot be disposed of by declaring them meaningless.
  • The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it, seems to me the deepest root of all that is evil in the world.
    • p. 230, also in My Life and Views (1968), p. 183
    • Variants (these could be paraphrases or differing translations): The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all evil that is in the world.
      The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil in the world.
  • There are metaphysical problems, which cannot be disposed of by declaring them meaningless. For, as I have repeatedly said, they are "beyond physics" indeed and demand an act of faith. We have to accept this fact to be honest. There are two objectionable types of believers: those who believe the incredible and those who believe that "belief" must be discarded and replaced by "the scientific method."
    • p. 209

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Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 18:48