Marco Giovanelli

Marco Giovanelli

Universität Tübingen and the Edelstein Center

Physics is a Kind of Metaphysics. On Émile Meyerson’s Influence on Einstein’s Rationalistic Realism

15.11.2017 20:00

At the Edelstein Center. Levi building, room 324, Edmund Safra Campus, Givat Ram, Jerusalem

Einstein’s career has been famously described by Gerald Holton as a philosophical `pilgrimage’. Starting on `the historic ground’ of Machian positivism and phenomenalism, following the completion of general relativity in late 1915, Einstein’s philosophy endured (a) speculative turn, in which physical theorizing appears as ultimately a `pure mathematical construction’ guided by the faith in the simplicity of nature (b) a realistic turn: science is `nothing more than a refinement’ of the everyday belief in the existence of mind-independent object. Yet, Einstein’s mathematical constructivism which supports his unified field theory program appears to be at first sight hardly compatible with the common sense realism with which he countered quantum theory. Thus, the literature on Einstein’s philosophy of science has often struggled in finding the thread between ostensibly conflicting philosophical pronouncements. This paper lends support to claim that Einstein’s correspondence with \’{E}mile Meyerson from the mid-1920s till the early 1930s might be a neglected source to solve this riddle. In Meyerson’s work, Einstein found the possibility to combine (a) the belief in the independent existence external world and (b) the conviction that the latter can be grasped only by speculative means. Einstein could present his search for unified field theory as a metaphysical-realistic program opposed to the positivistic-operationalist spirit of quantum mechanics.