segunda-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2014

In the Purgatory of Science with Edward Teller - The Genius of Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker

Dear Carl Friedrich,

apart from this letter, I shall send a few lines addressing those questions that have not lost any of their menacing character during the past 70 years. I hope very much that I can hear the contributions to your 90th birthday.

The problems of our youth remain largely unsolved, but the second half of the 20th century was certainly better than the first half. I feel sorry that we cannot once more take up our youthful discussions from their bewildering middle and engender new hope.

If I could share your religious belief, I would wish that you will one day come from a higher heaven and visit me in purgatory.

Meanwhile, with best wishes on your 90th birthday,


Edward Teller

Dear, honored Mr. v. Weizsäcker,

please permit me to take the opportunity presented by the happy circumstance of your 90th birthday, which you are able to celebrate with full intellectual presence, to look back two or three decades at our time together at the Institute in Starnberg and explain my gratitude to you.

Back then, your invitation to jointly direct the Institute was a surprise not only to myself. From this, problems arose which, for one or the other of us, were difficult to solve. But my personal relation to you, the ever benevoler, upright and superior spirit stemning from clear analytical capability, has always remained intact. I owe this to your truly Platonic capacity to liberate problems from the earthly weight of organizational mundanities and lift them to intellectually exciting heights. You put at the service of the public your unique gift for impromptu speaking with complete clarity on complex subjects. Therefore our cooperation could manifest itself in the intangible medium of a conversation on truly interesting things, interruptions of years not preventing resumption at any moment.

On my bookshelf too, there are, of course, the yellow linen volumes of Weizsäcker published by Hanser Verlag. Perhaps you are not aware, dear Mr. von Weizsäcker, how much and, above all, what I have learnt from you. You would be astonished if you were to take a look at the first of these volumes from 1971. In the second part of this particularly well worn book, which starts with “The unity of the hitherto existing physics” and ends with the section on quantum theory and an “Essay on the unity of physics”, almost all pages are strewn with underlinings by a totally incompetent but apparently curious and enthusiastic reader.

In one of the later volumes, I find next to the dedication a slip of paper with an anxious reference to three passages, pp. 116-121, pp. 132-133, and pp. 474-5, concerning something you wanted to discuss with me—your Christian conviction that the morality of justice should not be held up in isolation: “the ultimate basis of the possibility for humans to live together is love not morality.”

I wish you continuing good health and trust that you will not merely bear the numerous festivities which you have merited on the occasion of your day of honor, but that you will genuinely enjoy them, and I remain
with cordial greetings 

Jürgen Habermas

  • Body and soul are not two substances but one. They are man becoming aware of himself in two different ways.
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker

  • Democracy means decision by those concerned. 
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker

  • For philosophers, the most important discovery of modern science has been the history of Nature. 
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker

  • I believe the reason we didn't do it was because all the physicists didn't want to do it, on principle. 
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker - on his team's failure to create an atomic bomb for Germany (1945)

  • I have seen a physicist for the first time. He suffers as he thinks.
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker - after meeting Niels Bohr (1941)

  • If you ask me what makes the Siamese twins of science and technology the idols of our time, the answer ought to be: it is their trustworthiness.... When the care, the electric light, the telephone fail we do not blame science for being wrong but we blame the individual gadget for being defective, for not corresponding to the standard set by science itself. Such is our faith in science. 
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker - "Gifford Lectures" (1959-60)

  • Nature is earlier than man, but man is earlier than natural science.
  • Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker

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