Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Three mistakes in a recent book on Einstein and Bergson

I've seen few philosophical works on the books-of-the-year lists. One of the few is The Physicist and the Philosopher by Jimena Canales. The focus of the book is a dispute between Einstein and Bergson about the nature of time.

I've just bought the book and haven't had time, yet, to read it. However, after skimming some pages I've found three mistakes.

First, on p. 183, Canales says that 'Einstein admired Eddington for refusing to fight during World War I and liked Bertrand Russell, who had been imprisoned for refusing to join the army, for similar reasons'. In fact, Russell was fined in 1916 for writing an anti-war pamphlet, and was imprisoned for six months at the end of the war because he had written that American troops in the UK might be used for breaking strikes.

Secondly, on p. 204, Canales writes that Jacques Maritain 'helped craft' the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the Charter was written after public consultations in 1980 and came into effect in 1982. Maritain died in 1973. I can find no evidence that Maritain contributed to Canada's earlier Bill of Rights (1960).

Thirdly, on p. 205, Canales reports that 'Maritain is known for having coined the word "scientism".' In fact, he isn't known for having coined the word, since it was being used before he used it (in 1910).

Update (Dec. 16): A colleague has informed me that Canales' book is longer than it needs to be (i.e., could do with a good edit) but is worth a read.

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