There is a quote/image circulating Facebook (please don't get me started on the source), quoting Einstein:

Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth

I would like to avoid getting into the validity of the quote in the context its been used, rather I don't believe that Einstein did in fact say that quote to begin with. (I have found the quote on Good Reads, but it's not cited).

Did Einstein say "Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth"?

If so, where/when?

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    As it is said to be from Einstein, I blindly believe it ... Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 16:26
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    for anyone looking for validation for spreading coronavirus (you know they're reading this), I'll point out that blind disbelief in authority is the second-greatest enemy of truth. Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


The Ultimate Quotable Einstein has this quote:

Blind obedience to authority is the greatest enemy of the truth.

To Swiss teacher Jost Winteler, with whom he boarded while attending school in Aarau, complaining about a professor who would accept no criticism, July 8, 1901. CPAE, Vol. 1 Doc 115

This is very close to what you have in the question. The difference in wording may be due to translation.


Too long for a comment below Laurel's answer, so I'm posting this as a separate answer but I'm really amending Laurel's answer.

The last part of the two stated versions is the same. For the first part, it seems that Einstein used the term "Autoritätsdusel" (https://books.google.de/books?id=NbbzAUehU50C&pg=PA65#v=onepage&q=autorit%C3%A4tsdusel&f=false): "Autoritätsdusel ist der größte Feind der Wahrheit." Everything after "Autoritätsdusel" is straight-forward to translate. The only ambiguity here is the translation of "größte" which only refers to the size or magnitude of a things, whereas "greatest" can also mean superb or magnificent. However, I think that its meaning in this context is pretty obvious. The other words all are clear-cut translations of the German words and there is no grammatical ambiguity either.

Regarding "Autoritätsdusel": "Autorität" obviously means "authority". "Dusel" has two pretty different meanings. One of them is having good luck in an unjustified fashion. This is not what we're looking for. The other meaning is much more difficult to translate but goes into the direction of being unaware of what's happening in one's immediate surroundings. This is closer to blind belief than it is to blind obedience as there is no part of the original quote that suggest anything about obedience. Note that authority is not necessarily something that tells people what to do. An authority might simply issue opinions.

Minor note: Einstein did not talk about an authority in the sense of a government agency. The German word "Autorität" does not have this meaning.

I am a native German speaker.

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    @TCooper No, there term does not exclude government at all. In English, the term "authority" can refer a government agency's power to enforce rules, give orders, or have other influence. This is just the same with "Autorität" in German. However, revenue-generating government agencies are referred to as authorities in the English language. This is not the case in German.
    – UTF-8
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 19:47
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    So dusel and düssel are different words, I take it? Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 23:06
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    @Accumulation "Düssel" is a distributary of the Rhine, while "dusel" colloquially describes unexpected or even unmerited luck, besides the meaning given in the answer. They are pronounced differently and I can't see how one word would be an alternative spelling for the other.
    – chaosflaws
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 0:37
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    Perhaps worth giving the full original quote: “Autoritätsdusel ist der größte Feind der Wahrheit.” (from the source linked in this answer). The part “…is the greatest enemy of [the] truth” is pretty straightforward to translate — the literal translation has pretty much the same connotations as the original, as far as I’m aware (native English speaker, moderate German competence).
    – PLL
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 8:19
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    Native German speaker here. "Dusel", as noted above, can mean something like "luck" or "fluke". It can also mean something like "daze" or "befuddlement". To say, "ich bin ein wenig duselig heute" means something like "I feel a bit dizzy today". So, "Autoritätsdusel" probably means something along the lines of "letting somebody's authority or renown cloud your own reasoning". Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 10:01

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