Lot 39 of 221:
Einstein letters about Kant and Relativity  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$60,000
$15,000 - $25,000

Small group of original signed letters from Albert Einstein to author Max Fishler, an important correspondence about Immanuel Kant and Relativity

Einstein, Albert

Princeton, NJ



The archive includes:
  • Typed note from Einstein to Fishler, signed A. Einstein. 12 lines, in English. On letterhead of The Institute for Advanced Study, School of Mathematics, Princeton, New Jersey.  16.7x14 cm (6½x5½”), with envelope. June 19, 1949.
  • Typed letter from Einstein to Fishler, signed A. Einstein. 1½ pages, in German, on two sheets of typing paper, the first with Einstein’s Princeton address blindstamped at top.  27.5x22 cm (11x8½”), with envelope. Accompanied by typed English translation. 17 December, 1953.
  • Typed letter from Einstein to Fishler, signed A. Einstein, with two ink corrections by Einstein. 1 page, in German, on sheet of typing paper with Einstein’s Princeton address blindstamped at top.  27.5x22 cm (11x8½”), with envelope. Accompanied by typed English translation. April 1, 1954.
  • Typed letter from Einstein to Fishler, signed A. Einstein. 1 page, in German, on sheet of typing paper with Einstein’s Princeton address blindstamped at top.  27.5x22 cm (11x8½”), with envelope. Accompanied by typed English translation. September 9, 1954.
  • Typed letter from Max Fishler to Albert Einstein in English, on which Einstein made a 5-line marginal notation (in English) and a 14-line handwritten postscript (in German), which he has signed. The letter was also signed by Fishler before he sent it to Einstein. Einstein returned the letter to Fishler after he made his comments. 2 pages including the postscript. 26x18 cm (10¼x7”), with envelope addressed to Fishler. With translation of the postscript. The letter is dated September 25, 1954, the return envelope dated September 28, 1954.
  • Photocopy of Los Angeles Times articles from 1955 and 1956 referring to and describing these letters, and to Einstein’s death, with pictures of Einstein and Max Fishler.
  • Catalogue entry from the Parke-Bernet Galleries sale of these letters in 1964, along with a photocopy of the title page of the catalogue; also, the printed Parke-Bernet folder, with “Einstein” written on it in pencil, and the lot number 43.

Very significant correspondence between the great theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein, and an author conducting research on theological matters whom he befriended during the final years of his life. The first brief note from Einstein simply thanks Fishler for some recordings of his poems, but the following letters delve into the mysteries of science and their relation to philosophical and metaphysical theories, specifically those of Immanuel Kant. On December 17th, 1953, Einstein writes, as translated, “The question regarding Time and Space in connection with Kant’s philosophy is not an easy one to answer insofar as Kant’s view regarding Time and Space is interpreted differently by different people. It seems to me, however, that essentially Kant subscribes to the following view: Spatial thinking is not bound to sensible experience in the same sense as thinking with respect to corporeal objects. The spatial concepts are for him a priori, that is, given before any experience and to a certain degree inborn tools of perception and of thought… We know further that the Euclidean axioms are due to our experiences of solid bodies… The general theory of relativity has in my opinion convincingly shown that the spatial character belongs to the objects of the physical world…” On April 1st, 1954, a somewhat harried Einstein declares that “It is actually impossible for me to reply to all the incoming letters, even the most pertinent ones. In your case, one deals in a field wherein it is almost inevitable to be at cross-purposes with each other,” but does offer a few summaries of his meaning, including “All concepts are ‘subjective’ (or, better, ‘not empirical’)… The space-time concepts are in the same sense empirical or not-empirical as the concept ‘corporeal object’ whose construction precedes the space-concept…” On September 9, 1954, he writes that “In classical mechanics, space and time were completed existences, which had to be presupposed as real in order to give meaning to the law of motion… In this sense Kant was entirely wrong… Regarding the General Theory of Relativity however, this is principally different. What we call ‘space’ is here only an extension of a Field (dimensionality)…” And in his postscript reply on Fishler’s September 25, 1954 letter, he begins “Strictly speaking, in a consequential Field Theory the concept of motion does not exist at all…” Max Fishler was to use some of the concepts laid out in these letters in his book What the Great Philosophers Thought About God published in 1958. An important and revealing series of letters.

Lot Amendments

Some modest wear, very good or better.

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