Albert Einstein on “perfection of means and confusion of goals”

Wonder at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (Edinburgh, England: April 3-17, 2010)

Wonder at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (Edinburgh, England: April 3-17, 2010)
Image credit: Edinburgh Festival Guide

The super-national character of scientific concepts and scientific language is due to the fact that they have been set up by the best brains of all countries and all times. In solitude and yet in cooperative efforts as regards the final effect they created the spiritual tools for the technical revolutions which have transformed the life of mankind in the last centuries. Their system of concepts have served as a guide in the bewildering chaos of perceptions so that we learned to grasp general truths from particular observations.


What hopes and fears does the scientific method imply for mankind? I do not think that this is the right way to put the question. Whatever this tool in the hand of man will produce depends entirely on the nature of the goals alive in this mankind. Once these goals exist, the scientific method furnishes means to realize them. Yet it cannot furnish the very goals. The scientific method itself would not have led anywhere, it would not even have been born without a passionate striving for clear understanding.

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem—in my opinion—to characterize our age. If we desire sincerely and passionately the safety, the welfare and the free development of the talents of all men, we shall not be in want of the means to approach such a state. Even if only a small part of mankind strives for such goals, their superiority will prove itself in the long run.
Albert Einstein in his speech “The Common Language of Science”, a broadcast-recording for the Science Conference in London on September 28th, 1941. First published in The Advancement of Science, Volume 2, Number 5, (London: British Association for the Advancement of Science). Available in The Theory of Relativity, and Other Essays, (Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, 1996), p. 67. Audio recording available on “Albert Einstein: Historic Recordings, 1930-1947”, (London: The British Library, Sound Archive, 2005), Track 6.

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"The super-national character of scientific concepts"
Albert Einstein Posted on behalf of on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 under Quotations.


  1. […] as techniques for speaking with God. This suppression of means and confusion of goals, to paraphrase Einstein, overshadowed my willingness to find value within these traditions. The exoticism of […]

  2. […] Audio recording available on “Albert Einstein: Historic Recordings, 1930-1947″, Track 6. (Source) Jhex @ 10:15 am [filed under Geeky, Theories, Uncategorized Leave a Comment […]

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