After reading and pondering on the answer for: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/8928/albert-einstein-on-divining-the-purpose-of-life/10169#10169

I wonder if the words marked in bold below could also be reordered to:

comes to a seeming divine purpose

And if this word order "adjective + a + noun" construction has a special gramattical name. Googling did not help me out.

Albert Einstein once said,

Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men - above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.

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  • 3
    Divine is a verb. – Andrew Leach Mar 10 '14 at 16:48
  • ... in 'seeming to divine a purpose'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 10 '14 at 16:50
  • 3
    'to divine' as a verb means to figure out. 'divine' as an adjective means godly. – Mitch Mar 10 '14 at 16:53

This is a double entendre. People like Einstein are noted for their deep thoughts on the existence of God within the context of cosmology and physics.

But in this case, the statement "to divine a purpose" takes the literal meaning of "to divine", which is defined as "to perceive by intuition or insight; to conjecture". At the same time it hints at the philosophical question.

  • perceive a purpose (by intuition) would work – DisplayName Mar 10 '14 at 17:01
  • 3
    Einstein stated: "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one." You may choose to see echoes of "divine = godly", but the possibility that Einstein had that in mind seems vanishingly unlikely. I'm sure from his perspective he was just using it as an ordinary verb meaning "to intuit, perceive, figure out". – FumbleFingers Mar 10 '14 at 17:40
  • Einstein apparently said a lot of things on the subject. He seemed to have some flexibility about it: "I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details." – Canis Lupus Mar 10 '14 at 17:45
  • Double entendre, eh? And did Einstein say this in German? – GEdgar Mar 10 '14 at 17:50
  • Well, apparently it's from "Living Philosophies", an essay published in 1931 in New York. Amazon.com shows that it was published in English. I believe this was just prior to his immigration to the U.S., during a time when he was lecturing at Princeton in the winter months. – Canis Lupus Mar 10 '14 at 18:05

I am afraid that, despite what Amazon says, the text known in English as "My Credo" was originally written-and recorded-in German (see: http://www.einstein-website.de/z_biography/credo.html). If that is true, I guess there is not much sense in wondering whether Einstein wanted to express some deeper thought by using the expression "divine a purpose" as he probably did not use it at all.

My German vocabulary is quite limited, yet the credo text is not very complicated and it seems that there is not a word about divining (i.e. uncovering, if I am correct) any purpose, not to mention "a divine purpose". The English version, as beautiful as it may be, seems to me a very loose translation.

  • Indeed, the translation provided at your link says Every one of us appears here, involuntarily and uninvited, for a short stay, without knowing the why and the wherefore. That seems a more sensible translation. – wallyk Nov 17 '15 at 0:30

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