Einstein’s profoundly useful insight on reality versus experience

One of the things I really enjoy about exploring and researching Zoom-Out is how it crosses multiple schools of thought – spans multiple genres (it’s a real genre spanner in Mighty Boosh speak).

I was looking for sources regarding the nature of human emotion and came across a paper entitled: “The theory of constructed emotion: an active inference account of interoception and categorization” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. And lo and behold, I came across this unexpected gem:

If the history of science has taught us anything, however, it is that human experiences rarely reveal the way that the natural world works:

‘Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not; however, it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world’ – Einstein et al., 1938, p. 31

Einstein is such a significant icon in the history of human thought, I just had to look it up – this is the page in Einstein’s classic book on which this appears:

So what does this insight from one our greatest Physicists highlight from the point of view of a Zoomologist? It reminds us that any model we construct about reality, is just that, a model and can never be truly known to be the model. For there is not one-true-model. This applies in trying to define precise physical predictions and “laws” of reality that will keep aeroplanes in the sky, drive nuclear reactors, predict solar eclipses and understand the destiny of a black hole. When it comes to everyday human experience, we also construct models to navigate our world. A model as we have discussed before should be judged on how useful it is to us. And we are free to construct as many models as we like in our search for such a helpful model.

This points us back to the Zoom-Out principle:

“All perspectives are wrong but some are helpful” – Zoom-Out Principle

If you have further interest in Einstein’s book, here’s the description:

For what purpose has this book been written? Who is the imaginary reader for whom it is meant? It is difficult to begin by answering these questions clearly and convincingly. This would be much easier, though quite superfluous, at the end of the book. We find it simpler to say just what this book does not intend to be. We have not written a textbook of physics. Here is no systematic course in elementary physical facts and theories. Our intention was rather to sketch in broad outline the attempts of the human mind to find a connection between the world of ideas and the world of phenomena. We have tried to show the active forces which compel science to invent ideas corresponding to the reality of our world. But our representation had to be simple. Through the maze of facts and concepts we had to choose some highway which seemed to us most characteristic and significant. Facts and theories not reached by this road had to be omitted. We were forced, by our general aim, to make a definite choice of facts and ideas. The importance of a problem should not be judged by the number of pages devoted to it. Some essential lines of thought have been left out, not because they seemed to us unimportant, but because they do not lie along the road we have chosen.

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally-enhance the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works.