Talk:Richard Feynman

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Richard Feynman is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on December 2, 2004, and on May 11, 2018.
Did You Know Article milestones
DateProcessResult
August 18, 2004Featured article candidatePromoted
May 17, 2006Featured article reviewDemoted
June 15, 2006Good article nomineeListed
October 4, 2008Good article reassessmentDelisted
August 5, 2016Good article nomineeListed
January 31, 2017Featured article candidatePromoted
Did You Know A fact from this article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "Did you know?" column on August 31, 2016.
The text of the entry was: Did you know ... that Richard Feynman's work The Feynman Lectures on Physics was co-authored by Matthew Sands and Robert B. Leighton?
Current status: Featured article

Can the subject of the article dictate its content?Edit

User:Schazjmd and then User:Hawkeye7 Undid [this version] and then again [this version] saying the subject of this article did not want to be classified as Jewish. The facts that both his parents were Jewish are not disputed. I say the subject of an article can't dictate its content and also, I'm not even sure that Feynman indeed denied belonging to the Jewish people (unlike the Jewish religion). I'd like to read more opinions. עמירם פאל (talk) 10:08, 28 February 2020 (UTC)

Hi עמירם פאל. Have you read all the previous discussion on this question in the archives? Particularly in Archive 2, where the word "Jewish" appears 208 times. Yes, the consensus appears to be that he did not want to be considered Jewish. You might find this video interesting: [1] (Warning: contains one of those nasty H words). I'm not sure that taking account of the views of a subject of an article means that they "dictate its content." Thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 10:35, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
Hi Martinevans123, thx for your comment. I've briefly glanced at Archive 2 just now. Seems to refer to him being agnostic, meaning his reluctance to be part of the Jewish religion, not to the Jewish people, isn't it? And still there's the question of the effect of his views on the content of the article. עמירם פאל (talk) 11:09, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
And you've watched that video of his 1967 letter to Tina Levitan? Martinevans123 (talk) 11:18, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
Did that as well just now. Seems he vehemently opposed using his Jewishness for racist arguements, but did not deny the fact of him being Jewish per se. Again, isn't it? And again, what is the weight you can attribute to his views in this enciclopedic article about him? Especially if it contradicts the accepted facts? עמירם פאל (talk) 11:31, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
The content of that video is reflected in the article. And I think the article perfectly clear. It also says "Feynman's parents were both from Jewish families but not religious, and by his youth, Feynman described himself as an "avowed atheist"." I think those facts are all that are needed. We don't actually know "how Jewish" his parents were, do we? If we discovered that one of his grandparents was non-Jewish would we want to add a Category:Three-quarter Jewish Nobel laureates? Why are you so keen to "classify him as Jewish", when he spent most of his life trying to show that such a classification was at best utterly pointless, and at worst dangerous? Martinevans123 (talk) 11:35, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
I think that as much as you can caracterize him as an American atheist you can describe him as a Jewish atheist as well. And being Jewish myself, it makes me proud. עמירם פאל (talk) 11:46, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
By all means get the views of other editors. But as far as I can see, Feynman "was Jewish" in much the same way as Caitlyn Jenner "was a man". Maybe I'm "proud to be a man," but I can't see that really comes into it. Martinevans123 (talk) 11:51, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
That's not the right comparison. I'd compare it to a British writer who immigrated to the USA. Wouldn't you call him a "British writer" as well as an "American writer"? עמירם פאל (talk) 12:01, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
If he wrote something of note when he considered himself British, certainly. How much of Feynman's Nobel-prize-winning work did he do when he considered himself Jewish? I'd say none. Martinevans123 (talk) 12:05, 28 February 2020 (UTC)

His Jewish parents are already in the article; so is an entire section titled "Religion" which contains this: "...declining a request for information for her book on Jewish Nobel Prize winners, he stated, "To select, for approbation the peculiar elements that come from some supposedly Jewish heredity is to open the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory", adding, "at thirteen I was not only converted to other religious views, but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way 'the chosen people'". The article does not ignore his Jewish heritage; what is being disputed is only the latest drive-by effort to slap on a label that Feynman, when living, repeatedly pushed back on. The entire letter Feynman wrote to Levitan is in his collected letters and also online here; reading it in full gives more context to his pushback against being used as a posterboy for his ethnicity. HouseOfChange (talk) 18:18, 28 February 2020 (UTC)

Since Feynman did not identify as Jewish, and did not practice Judaism, any characterisation of him as such would be ideological, not factual. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 19:16, 28 February 2020 (UTC)
One could say that he is ethnically Jewish. Sounds like a compromise, no? VdSV9 15:26, 1 March 2020 (UTC)
No. Feynman was not ethnically Jewish. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 19:43, 1 March 2020 (UTC)
Sorry, what? Of course he was ethnically Jewish. Why wouldn't he be? Jayjg (talk) 18:15, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
What do you mean by "ethnically Jewish"? That he practised the Jewish religion? He didn't. That he was an active member of the local Jewish community? He wasn't. That he considered himself ethnically Jewish? He didn't. What makes you think that he was ethnically Jewish? A nonsensical racial theory lacking any objective basis whatsoever? Hawkeye7 (discuss) 20:32, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
Jews are an ethnoreligious group. They have an ethnicity, just like any other ethnic group; they share ancestry, cultural background etc. Those are pretty "objective". What does that have to do with practicing Judaism etc.? And what do his own feelings on the matter have to do with it either? Jayjg (talk) 22:39, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
Exactly which changes to the article are you advocating? Martinevans123 (talk) 22:50, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
I haven't proposed any yet, until I understand the arguments being made for and against inclusion of material. I'm interested in Hawkeye7's response to my questions above. And yours, for that matter. Jayjg (talk) 22:55, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
That's quite a big and complicated question. However, our remit here, in light of WP:FORUM is just to discuss possible improvements to this article? Thanks. Martinevans123 (talk) 23:01, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

Yes, but clearly there's a dispute about including Feynman in various Jewish categories, so the "possible improvements" would be regarding whether or not to restore/add those categories. And that decision would, in turn, be predicated on the outcome of this discussion. To be frank, it appeared to me that Hawkeye7 was arguing against their inclusion based on some very questionable claims; perhaps, after discussing them, Hawkeye7 (or others) will change their mind. We have, for example, a category called Category:Jewish atheists. For that matter, we also have List of Jewish atheists and agnostics. They appear to contain dozens, perhaps hundreds of members. עמירם פאל is certainly arguing that Feynman should be included in the category. VdSV9 appears to agree. On what (policy-based) grounds would Feynman be excluded? Jayjg (talk) 23:12, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

Link to the previous extensive discussion of this question, for anyone interested. Schazjmd (talk) 23:38, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
I think adding Feynman to Jewish categories would be counter to WP:NONDEFINING, a defining characteristic is one that reliable, secondary sources commonly and consistently define, in prose, the subject as having. For example: "Subject is an adjective noun ..." or "Subject, an adjective noun, ...". I found many sources using "is an American physicist" or "Nobel Prize-winning physicist", but searches on Google Books and Google Scholar on "feynman is a jewish" had no results. So although his parents came from Jewish families, it doesn't appear that reliable sources consider Jewishness to be a defining characteristic of Feynman, so the category would not be appropriate to add. Schazjmd (talk) 18:14, 4 March 2020 (UTC)
Wholly agree. Martinevans123 (talk) 18:17, 4 March 2020 (UTC)
I agree, too, that there's no good reason to categorize Feynman as Jewish. If we use the definition of ethnoreligious group, that would argue against an inclusion since it defines membership in the group by a combination of ethnic identity [...] and religious affiliation - but and means that both conditions must be fulfilled, which they weren't in the case of Feynman due to his atheism. --Qcomp (talk) 13:56, 5 March 2020 (UTC)
Qcomp, an ethnoreligious group is one that shares ethnicity and religion, but that doesn't mean each individual must practice the religion; again, please review Category:Jewish atheists and List of Jewish atheists and agnostics. Feynman is just one of hundreds of atheist/agnostic Jews. In any event, your post doesn't really address policy. Jayjg (talk) 20:06, 6 March 2020 (UTC)
Thanks Schazjmd, that's the first policy-based argument I've seen so far against including these categories. The problem with it is that, as far as I can tell, Wikipedia BLPs don't actually follow this policy; rather, every biography (and every article in general) includes every category that applies, regardless of whether or not it is a "defining characteristic". For example, Barack Obama is in dozens of categories, including Category:20th-century American male writers, Category:20th-century American non-fiction writers, Category:Activists from Illinois,, Category:African-American academics, Category:African-American educators, Category:American people of French descent, Category:American people of Swiss descent, Category:HuffPost writers and columnists, Category:Occidental College alumni, Category:Punahou School alumni, Category:People from Kalorama (Washington, D.C.), and dozens more. Which of these are characteristic(s) that reliable, secondary sources commonly and consistently define, in prose, the subject as having? Jayjg (talk) 20:06, 6 March 2020 (UTC)
Ah, yes. At last we have an article where the policy on Categories is followed properly. Not sure this one is a BLP, though. Martinevans123 (talk) 20:14, 6 March 2020 (UTC)
It's not a BLP, but it is a "biography (and every article in general)". More to the point, something that purports to be policy (or guideline), but isn't actually followed in any articles, isn't actually policy (or guideline). Jayjg (talk) 20:39, 6 March 2020 (UTC)
I realize that WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS, but I don't think it should. There's a trend to over-categorize biographies on Wikipedia, I don't know what motivates it. Especially in the ethnicity area...French and Swiss descent for Obama are hardly relevant. It's like the WP version of hashtags. It's a form of meta labelling that is out of control. That said, I'm not on a crusade to strip categories from articles. I came across this one because of pending-changes, deferred to the previous consensus that appeared to be reflected by the editing comment in the article, then looked into it more when this conversation was opened. I'm comfortable with WP:NONDEFINING as a solid reason to oppose the category, but if other editors reach policy-based consensus to add it, so be it. (Added to clarify: it was on my watchlist because it had been protected for pending changes in the past) Schazjmd (talk) 20:52, 6 March 2020 (UTC)
If you look at some of the comments above you will see that one of the motivations here is "I'm proud to be Jewish". I'm not sure that's the kind of motivation that is meant to be among Wikipedia's guiding principles. Martinevans123 (talk) 20:59, 6 March 2020 (UTC)
That kind of makes WP:ILIKEIT the reason for adding it, doesn't it? And neither that nor WP:OSE are good reasons. If there's a policy or guideline that supports adding it, I'm interested in having it pointed out. Schazjmd (talk) 21:14, 6 March 2020 (UTC)

The stable state of this article does not categorize Feynman as a Jewish Nobel laureate. There have been repeated drive-by attempts to add this category, which have repeatedly been removed, by consensus of editors, because 1) Feynman opposed such attempts to use his achievements for pro-ethnic boasting and 2) Feynman's "Jewishness" was not a "Defining" category. I think the burden of proof should be on Jayjg and others who want to undo the stable state of the article to provide a policy argument that requires biographies to labeled with categories that were not "defining" to the biography subject but are emotional hotspots for some group of editors. HouseOfChange (talk) 21:11, 6 March 2020 (UTC)

Feynman is technically Mormon. This is because he was converted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1990 and is therefore no longer Jewish. Please consider that if Wikipedia policy were that religious claims outweigh an individual's own declaration of group membership it opens up a can of worms from a purely pragmatic sense. Lexlex (talk) 11:34, 29 September 2020 (UTC)

Contribution to mathematicsEdit

I think Feynman's contributions to mathematics, especially his integration technique, are significant enough to describe him as mathematician in addition to theiretical physicist in the article's opening sentence.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 17:48, 27 August 2020 (UTC)

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