Letters and Politics

The Physicist and the Philosopher

With Jimena Canales, Professor of History of Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and author of the book The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time. 

And Gerry Spence, trial lawyer who has been practicing law since 1952  and author of Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away with Murder. 

About The Physicist and the Philosopher: 

On April 6, 1922, in Paris, Albert Einstein and Henri Bergson publicly debated the nature of time. Einstein considered Bergson’s theory of time to be a soft, psychological notion, irreconcilable with the quantitative realities of physics. Bergson, who gained fame as a philosopher by arguing that time should not be understood exclusively through the lens of science, criticized Einstein’s theory of time for being a metaphysics grafted on to science, one that ignored the intuitive aspects of time. The Physicist and the Philosopher tells the remarkable story of how this explosive debate transformed our understanding of time and drove a rift between science and the humanities that persists today.

Jimena Canales introduces readers to the revolutionary ideas of Einstein and Bergson, describes how they dramatically collided in Paris, and traces how this clash of worldviews reverberated across the twentieth century. She shows how it provoked responses from figures such as Bertrand Russell and Martin Heidegger, and carried repercussions for American pragmatism, logical positivism, phenomenology, and quantum mechanics. Canales explains how the new technologies of the period—such as wristwatches, radio, and film—helped to shape people’s conceptions of time and further polarized the public debate. She also discusses how Bergson and Einstein, toward the end of their lives, each reflected on his rival’s legacy—Bergson during the Nazi occupation of Paris and Einstein in the context of the first hydrogen bomb explosion.

The Physicist and the Philosopher reveals how scientific truth was placed on trial in a divided century marked by a new sense of time.

About Police State: 

In his 60-plus years as a trial lawyer, Gerry Spence has never represented a person accused of a crime in which the police hadn’t themselves violated the law. Whether by covering up their own corrupt dealings, by the falsification or manufacture of evidence, or by the outright murder of innocent civilians, those individuals charged with upholding the law too often break it, in ways more scandalous than the courts have dared admit. The police and prosecutors won’t charge or convict themselves, and so the crimes of the criminal justice system are swept under the rug. Nothing changes.

Too many police officers are killers on the loose, and every uninformed American is a potential next victim. Police culture is mired in the dead weight of precedent and ruled by trigger-happy tyrants. Power will march our nation over the police state precipice unless We the People take action.

The FBI’s massacre of the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge; the killing of mortally wounded Fouad Kaady by a group of police officers; the torture of teenaged Dennis Williams by cops seeking a murder confession – again and again, the question arises: When the very men and women we pay to protect us instead persecute us, how can we be safe? In Police State, Spence issues a stinging indictment of the American justice system and puts forth a plan to restore liberty and justice for all.

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