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Out of My Later Years: The Scientist, Philosopher, and Man Portrayed Through His Own Words

Out of My Later Years: The Scientist, Philosopher, and Man Portrayed Through His Own Words

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by Albert Einstein

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An inspiring collection of essays, in which Albert Einstein addresses the topics that fascinated him as a scientist, philosopher, and humanitarian

Divided by subject matter—“Science,” “Convictions and Beliefs,” “Public Affairs,” etc.—these essays consider everything from the need for a


An inspiring collection of essays, in which Albert Einstein addresses the topics that fascinated him as a scientist, philosopher, and humanitarian

Divided by subject matter—“Science,” “Convictions and Beliefs,” “Public Affairs,” etc.—these essays consider everything from the need for a “supranational” governing body to control war in the atomic age, to freedom in research and education, to Jewish history and Zionism, to explanations of the physics and scientific thought that brought him world recognition. Throughout, Einstein’s clear, eloquent voice presents an idealist’s vision and relays complex theories to the layperson.
Einstein’s essays share his philosophical beliefs, scientific reasoning, and hopes for a brighter future, and show how one of the greatest minds of all time fully engaged with the changing world around him.
This authorized Philosophical Library book features rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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“Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.” —Albert Einstein, “The Law of Science and the Laws of Ethics”

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Out of My Later Years

The Scientist, Philosopher and Man Portrayed Through His Own Words

By Albert Einstein

Philosophical Library, Inc.

Copyright © 1956 Estate of Albert Einstein
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-0489-4


Convictions and Beliefs


OF WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT in one's own existence one is hardly aware, and it certainly should not bother the other fellow. What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life?

The bitter and the sweet come from the outside, the hard from within, from one's own efforts. For the most part I do the thing which my own nature drives me to do. It is embarrassing to earn so much respect and love for it. Arrows of hate have been shot at me too; but they never hit me, because somehow they belonged to another world, with which I have no connection whatsoever.

I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.


Ten Fateful Years

READING ONCE AGAIN the lines I wrote almost ten years ago, I receive two strangely contrasting impressions. What I wrote then still seems essentially as true as ever; yet, it all seems curiously remote and strange. How can that be? Has the world changed so profoundly in ten years, or is it merely that I have grown ten years older, and my eyes see everything in a changed, dimmer light? What are ten years in the history of humanity? Must not all those forces that determine the life of man be regarded as constant compared with such a trifling interval? Is my critical reason so susceptible that the physiological change in my body during those ten years has been able to influence my concept of life so deeply? It seems clear to me that such considerations cannot throw light upon a change in the emotional approach to the general problems of life. Nor may the reasons for this curious change be sought in my own external circumstances; for I know that these have always played a subordinate part in my thoughts and emotions.

No, something quite different is involved. In these ten years confidence in the stability, yes, even the very basis for existence, of human society has largely vanished. One senses not only a threat to man's cultural heritage, but also that a lower value is placed upon all that one would like to see defended at all costs.

Conscious man, to be sure, has at all times been keenly aware that life is an adventure, that life must, forever, be wrested from death. In part the dangers were external: one might fall downstairs and break one's neck, lose one's livelihood without fault, be condemned though innocent, or ruined by calumny. Life in human society meant dangers of all sorts; but these dangers were chaotic in nature, subject to chance. Human society, as a whole, seemed stable. Measured by the ideals of taste and morals it was decidedly imperfect. But, all in all, one felt at home with it and, apart from the many kinds of accidents, comparatively safe in it One accepted its intrinsic qualities as a matter of course, as the air one breathed. Even standards of virtue, aspiration, and practical truth were taken for granted as an inviolable heritage, common to all civilized humanity.

To be sure, the first World War had already shaken this feeling of security. The sanctity of life vanished and the individual was no longer able to do as he pleased and to go where he liked. The lie was raised to the dignity of a political instrument. The war was, however, widely regarded as an external event, hardly or not at all as the result of man's conscious planful action. It was thought of as an interruption of man's normal life from the outside, universally considered unfortunate and evil. The feeling of security in regard to human aims and values remained, for the main part, unshaken.

The subsequent development is sharply marked by political events that are not as far-reaching as the less easily grasped socio-psychological background. First a brief, promising step forward characterized by the creation of the League of Nations through the grandiose initiative of Wilson, and the establishment of a system of collective security among the nations. Then the formation of Fascist states, attended by a series of broken pacts and undisguised acts of violence against humanity and against weaker nations. The system of collective security collapsed like a house of cards—a collapse the consequences of which cannot be measured even today. It was a manifestation of weakness of character and lack of responsibility on the part of the leaders in the affected countries, and of shortsighted selfishness in the democracies—those that still remain outwardly intact—which prevented any vigorous counterattack.

Things grew even worse than a pessimist of the deepest dye would have dared prophesy. In Europe to the east of the Rhine free exercise of the intellect exists no longer, the population is terrorized by gangsters who have seized power, and youth is poisoned by systematic lies. The pseudo-success of political adventurers has dazzled the rest of the world; it becomes apparent everywhere that this generation lacks the strength and force which enabled previous generations to win, in painful struggle and at great sacrifice, the political and individual freedom of man.

Awareness of this state of affairs overshadows every hour of my present existence, while ten years ago it did not yet occupy my thoughts. It is this that I feel so strongly in rereading the words written in the past.

And yet I know that, all in all, man changes but little, even though prevailing notions make him appear in a very different light at different times, and even though current trends like the present bring him unimaginable sorrow. Nothing of all that will remain but a few pitiful pages in the history books, briefly picturing to the youth of future generations the follies of its ancestors.


Moral Decay

ALL RELIGIONS, ARTS and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual toward freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities have developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities—insofar as they live up to their true function—serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.

The essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular cultural institutions was lost during the 19th century, to the point of senseless hostility. Yet there never was any doubt as to the striving for culture. No one doubted the sacredness of the goal. It was the approach that was disputed.

The political and economic conflicts and complexities of the last few decades have brought before our eyes dangers which even the darkest pessimists of the last century did not dream of. The injunctions of the Bible concerning human conduct were then accepted by believer and infidel alike as self-evident demands for individuals and society. No one would have been taken seriously who failed to acknowledge the quest for objective truth and knowledge as man's highest and eternal aim.

Yet today we must recognize with horror that these pillars of civilized human existence have lost their firmness. Nations that once ranked high bow down before tyrants who dare openly to assert: Right is that which serves us! The quest for truth for its own sake has no justification and is not to be tolerated. Arbitrary rule, oppression, persecution of individuals, faiths and communities are openly practiced in those countries and accepted as justifiable or inevitable.

And the rest of the world has slowly grown accustomed to these symptoms of moral decay. One misses the elementary reaction against injustice and for justice—that reaction which in the long run represents man's only protection against a relapse into barbarism. I am firmly convinced that the passionate will for justice and truth has done more to improve man's condition than calculating political shrewdness which in the long run only breeds general distrust1. Who can doubt that Moses was a better leader of humanity than Machiavelli?

During the War someone tried to convince a great Dutch scientist that might went before right in the history of man. "I cannot disprove the accuracy of your assertion," he replied, "but I do know that I should not care to live in such a world!"

Let us think, feel and act like this man, refusing to accept fateful compromise. Let us not even shun the fight when it is unavoidable to preserve right and the dignity of man. If we do this we shall soon return to conditions that will allow us to rejoice in humanity.


Message For Posterity

OUR TIME IS RICH in inventive minds, the inventions of which could facilitate our lives considerably. We are crossing the seas by power and utilize power also in order to relieve humanity from all tiring muscular work. We have learned to fly and we are able to send messages and news without any difficulty over the entire world through electric waves.

However, the production and distribution of commodities is entirely unorganized so that everybody must live in fear of being eliminated from the economic cycle, in this way suffering for the want of everything. Furthermore, people living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason any one who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror. This is due to the fact that the intelligence and the character of the masses are incomparably lower than the intelligence and character of the few who produce something valuable for the community.

I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and justified superiority.


On Freedom

I KNOW THAT IT is a hopeless undertaking to debate about fundamental value judgments. For instance if someone approves, as a goal, the extirpation of the human race from the earth, one cannot refute such a viewpoint on rational grounds. But if there is agreement on certain goals and values, one can argue rationally about the means by which these objectives may be attained. Let us, then, indicate two goals which may well be agreed upon by nearly all who read these lines.

1. Those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced by the least possible labor of all.

2. The satisfaction of physical needs is indeed the indispensable precondition of a satisfactory existence, but in itself it is not enough. In order to be content men must also have the possibility of developing their intellectual and artistic powers to whatever extent accord with their personal characteristics and abilities.

The first of these two goals requires the promotion of all knowledge relating to the laws of nature and the laws of social processes, that is, the promotion of all scientific endeavor. For scientific endeavor is a natural whole the parts of which mutually support one another in a way which, to be sure, no one can anticipate. However, the progress of science presupposes the possibility of unrestricted communication of all results and judgments—freedom of expression and instruction in all realms of intellectual endeavor. By freedom I understand social conditions of such a kind that the expression of opinions and assertions about general and particular matters of knowledge will not involve dangers or serious disadvantages for him who expresses them. This freedom of communication is indispensable for the development and extension of scientific knowledge, a consideration of much practical import. In the first instance it must be guaranteed by law. But laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man may present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population. Such an ideal of external liberty can never be fully attained but must be sought unremittingly if scientific thought, and philosophical and creative thinking in general, are to be advanced as far as possible.

If the second goal, that is, the possibility of the spiritual development of all individuals, is to be secured, a second kind of outward freedom is necessary. Man should not have to work for the achievement of the necessities of life to such an extent that he has neither time nor strength for personal activities. Without this second kind of outward liberty, freedom of expression is useless for him. Advances in technology would provide the possibility of this kind of freedom if the problem of a reasonable division of labor were solved.

The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit in general requires still another kind of freedom, which may be characterized as inward freedom. It is this freedom of the spirit which consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudices as well as from unphilosophical routinizing and habit in general. This inward freedom is an infrequent gift of nature and a worthy objective for the individual. Yet the community can do much to further this achievement, too, at least by not interfering with its development. Thus schools may interfere with the development of inward freedom through authoritarian influences and through imposing on young people excessive spiritual burdens; on the other hand schools may favor such freedom by encouraging independent thought Only if outward and inner freedom are constantly and consciously pursued is there a possibility of spiritual development and perfection and thus of improving man's outward and inner life.


Excerpted from Out of My Later Years by Albert Einstein. Copyright © 1956 Estate of Albert Einstein. Excerpted by permission of Philosophical Library, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was born in Germany and became an American citizen in 1934. A world-famous theoretical physicist, he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics and is renowned for his Theory of Relativity. In addition to his scientific work, Einstein was an influential humanist who spoke widely about politics, ethics, and social causes. After leaving Europe, Einstein taught at Princeton University. His theories were instrumental in shaping the atomic age.

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Out of My Later Years 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for all generations; his clarity and wit speak to the reader. An awesome collection in one book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Forty years ago I read the companion to this book not knowing there was a second volume. That first volume had a lasting impact on me. This volume is equal in its impact. The thoughts on morals and ethics are impressive and the bringing together of science and religion is significant. Other social issues by one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century are as important today as when they were wtitten.
DianeCascade More than 1 year ago
Out of My Later Years is a truly amazing book. It consists of a collection of essays by Albert Einstein, one of history’s greatest minds. The subjects range from life in the atomic age to education to Jewish history. It is definitely a book that you can read more than once and learn new things each time. Five stars.
KimOinSoCo More than 1 year ago
A man of high intelligence. I enjoy reading this book, a few chapters at a time and then really thinking about what it is he is saying. He was born into his time for a reason. Very interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pkease be aware that you are about to read different essays on his philosphies, science and idealogies. This is a man who was born way before his time and understood the ramifications of what was created and for distruction, which he regretted. I suggest that one keeps an open mind, and also realizes that he understood so much more than mankind was even ready to accept. I enjoy great scientist and philosphers, especially when we get a glimps of his thoughts. Enjoy and think how you if had the oppurtunity, would change the world for the good of man kind, and not destruction which was regretted. Blessings-dbeckman
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I admire Dr. Einstein so much but this book did not hold my interest.
ChristineJ_MaMa_Jones More than 1 year ago
I don't agree with everything he says - he's not always pragmatic, but he is brilliant & I am grateful to get a glimpse into his thinking!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting read, although a bit technical at times. It is for anyone who wants insight into Albert Einstein's thought processes for his theories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always like reading a book that offers an insight into a way someone truly feels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stepping in, Sayaka made her way over to her bunk, pulling out her clothes drawer and removing a simple pair black loose-fitting pants and her old Karate top, tying it on with her old blue belt before making her way back outside.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the cabin of Apollo. It is made of a warm, glowing brown stone that always shines even in the darkest of times. Bows and quivers are hung on the walls, and music plays in the background. There are several bunk beds and dressers, and there is a red carpet with an image of a sun on the floor. ~Jasmine ***Chiron***
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Good book!
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This looks good but I do not want to pay that much to read a bunch of his essays.