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EINSTEIN'S EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD . . . The scientist [in general] who is making new discoveries must have his attention continously upon the subject matter of his science. His methods are present, but he must have them so incorporated in his habits that he operates according to them without his having to give any conscious attention to them. He is like the truly natural athlete, who performs spontaneously, but who often cannot teach others how he does it.lAlbert Einstein stands out among modem physicists as the scientist who not only formulated a theory of revolutionary significance but also had the genius to reflect in a conscious and technical way on the scientific method he was using. It must be noted, however, that Einstein himself never presented his reflections on scientific method systematically. In his " Reply to Criticisms " Einstein acknowledged his debt in this regard to two of the contributors in Schilpp's volume on Einstein: The essays by Lenzen and Northrop both aim to treat my occasional utterances of epistemological content systematically. From those utterances Lenzen constructs a synoptic total picture, in which what is missing in the utterances is carefully and with delicacy of feeling supplied. Everything said therein appears to me convincing and correct. Northrop uses these utterances as point of departure for a comparative critique of the major epistemological systems. I see in this critique a masterpiece of unbiased thinking and concise discussion, which nowhere permits itself to be diverted from the essential.2 1 F. S. C. Northrop, "Einstein's Conception of Science," Albert Einstein: Philosopher -Scientist, Paul Arthur Schilpp, editor (second edition; New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1951), p. 887. 2 Einstein, "Reply to Criticisms," Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, op. cit., p. 688. The two articles referred to are Northrop, op. cit., pp. 885-408; and Victor F. Lenzen, "Einstein's Theory of Knowledge," pp. 855-84. 100 EINSTEIN's EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD 101 Needless to say, this article draws much from the two articles warmly commended by Einstein. Einstein's analysis of the scientific method often enters properly epistemological ground. When it does so, his analysis exihibits points of contact, now with the epistemology of Plato or Kant, now with that of Aristotle or Whitehead, now with empiricistic or positivistic tenets. We may well wonder how one theory of knowledge can contain such divergent elements. Einstein himself, in his idea of the reciprocal relationship between epistemology and science, gives the most illuminating answer. Epistemology without science, he asserts, is an empty scheme; science without epistemology is primitive and muddled. However, while the scientist needs the conceptual analysis of an epistemological system , he cannot afford to adhere too closely to one such system, especially if it would at times oblige him to reject certain facts of experience. The scientist must therefore inevitably appear as an unscrupulous opportunist. . . . [He] appears as realist insofar as he seeks to describe a world independent of the acts of perception; as idealist insofar as he looks upon the concepts and theories as the free inventions of the human spirit (not logically derivable from what is empirically given); as positivist insofar as he considers his concepts and theories justified only to the extent to which they furnish a logical representation of relations among sensory experiences. He may even appear as Platonist or Pythagorean insofar as he considers the viewpoint of logical simplicity as an indispensable and effective tool of his research.3 What is implicit here is the reminder that this theory of knowledge or epistemology is one that belongs exclusively to scientific method. It is not properly a philosophical epistemology . The points of similarity with opposite cognitive theories are accidental. Nevertheless they have important repercussions on properly philosophical epistemology. Philosophical epistemology has its starting-point in perceptive or sensible knowledge, according to that basic Aristotel3 Ibid., pp. 688-84. 10~ ANTONIO MA. MOLINA ico-Thomistic principle: Quidquid est in intellectu prius fuerit aliquomodo in sensu. It is here that Einstein's scientific theory of knowledge most closely approaches Aristotelian and Thomistic epistemology. Einstein distinguishes between sensory experience and conceptual description. Empirical knowledge originates in sense-impressions but has its goal in understanding through concepts. This point of...