I’m looking forward to our club’s discussion, at my home on the morning of Thurs., Mar. 2, 2017, of Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, a 1954 collection which describes itself as “an attempt to gather together, so far as is possible, in one volume the most important of Albert Einstein’s general writings.” This thought-provoking volume is a selection made by his friend Carl Seelig from three others that were previously published by Einstein in 1934, 1950, and 1953.
Nota bene. I see that Ron mentions a Modern Library edition of Ideas and Opinions. I’m not familiar with that edition. As far as I know this is out-of-print and copies are expensive. I have not consulted it. The edition I’m reading is the 1954 edition, which is still available in a 1995 reprint published by Broadway Books.
I chose this book to read with our group for several reasons.
First, it’s a book that has been in my library for several decades, so my reading it is long overdue!
Second, I chanced to learn a few months ago that Einstein is, and has long been, as best I could determine, the thinker whose biography is most frequently consulted in the English-language Wikipedia — a fact, or factoid, that I find particularly and peculiarly cheering.
Third, someone recently posted Einstein’s “Aphorisms for Leo Baeck” on a listserv to which I subscribe, and upon reading them I had the impression of encountering a wit so mordant that I wondered whether Einstein had really written them, mordancy not being a quality I had previously associated with the man. (It was in thinking about this piece that I was reminded that I owned a copy of Ideas and Opinions.)
Fourth, since most of the pieces in the book were written in the period immediately following the one we contemplated in discussing Carl Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, I thought Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions would be a choice that would be sequentially appropriate, as it were.
Fifth, Einstein’s preoccupation in these pages with the problem of nationalism makes them seem worthy of study today.
I’m also reading, for background, Walter Isaacson’s much celebrated 2007 biography of Einstein, Einstein: His Life and Universe, but I have no pretensions to knowledge or competency, much less expertise, concerning any aspect of his life or thought. I only learned recently, for example, that Princeton University Press is presently engaged in the great scholarly project of publishing all of Einstein’s papers under the collective title The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, the first volume of which was published in 1987 and about fifteen volumes of which have been published to date, both in a German version and an English translation.