Reverence for Life

Reverence for Life : Albert Schweitzer's Great Contribution to Ethical Thought

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Albert Schweitzer maintained that the idea of "Reverence for Life" came upon him on the Ogowe River as an "unexpected discovery, like a revelation in the midst of intense thought." While Schweitzer made numerous significant contributions to an incredible diversity of fields - medicine, music, biblical studies, philosophy and theology - he regarded Reverence for Life as his greatest contribution and the one by which he most wanted to be remembered. Yet this concept has been the subject of a range of distortions and misunderstandings, both academic and popular. In this book, Ara Barsam provides a new interpretation of Schweitzer's reverence and shows how it emerged from his studies of German philosophy, Indian religions, and his biblical scholarship on Jesus and Paul. By throwing light on the origin and development of Schweitzer's thought, Barsam leads his readers to a closer appreciation of the contribution that reverence makes to current ethical issues. Whereas previous commentators have focused on "reverence for life" as a philosophical ethic located in that tradition, this book demonstrates that it is in fact Schweitzer's theology that provides the hitherto undiscerned foundation for his ethic. Even among those who herald Schweitzer as the one who brought "reverence" to Christianity, there exists a tendency to underemphasize how his thinking also developed from his pivotal encounter with Indian religions. As Barsam shows, it is impossible to grasp the nature and the significance of Barsam's contribution without addressing that link. Life-centered ethics - in the broadest sense - have continued to flourish, yet Schweitzer's pioneering contribution is often overlooked. Not only did he help establish the issue on the moral agenda, but, most significant, he also provided much sought after philosophical and theological foundations. Schweitzer emerges from this critical study of his life and thought as a remarkable individual who should rightfully be regarded as a moral giant of the more

Product details

  • Hardback | 216 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 362.87g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195329554
  • 9780195329551
  • 1,187,964

Review quote

"In this smart and readable book, Barsam provides a fresh and illuminating discussion of the ethic of reverence for life of le grand Docteur of Gabon, Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer affirms that all life - human, animal, and plant - is sacred and must be treated with respect and reverence, and Barsam shows how the ethical thought of Schweitzer finds its place in the global context of philosophical, religious, and theological expressions of the international community. The resultant volume makes a significant contribution to contemporary ethical reflection at a time when our world is in desperate need of respect and reverence for life." -Marvin Meyer, Director, Chapman University Albert Schweitzer Institute "Barsam shows that Schweitzer's contribution to theological ethics has been far more seminal than most commentators have appreciated. One of the nice touches to Barsam's work is the way in which he fairly, but critically, introduces the human dimension of Schweitzer's own life, and reveals (against the critics) that it has an overall integrity. The Schweitzer that emerges is far more humanly compelling than in most portraits, and that despite the fact that the book is intended first and foremost as an intellectual history. Altogether a groundbreaking book and a remarkable intellectual achievement." -Andrew Linzey, Director of Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and author of Animal Theology "Ara Barsam's reassessment of Schweitzer's ideas is of vital importance in today's world, which sorely lacks a unifying ethic that can help us find solutions to the violence, poverty, disease, and environmental degradation that threaten life on earth. No prior study in the English language has critically explored the origins, strengths, and limitations of Schweitzer's ethic in such depth. By weaving together analyses of four diverse sources-Schweitzer's philosophical writings, his theological writings, his sermons (many unpublished until recently), and his reflections on his daily medical work in Lambarene-Barsam demonstrates that Schweitzer's philosophy of Reverence for Life is a deeply-rooted and powerful moral vision with enormous relevance today. This timely work is a major contribution to a global re-awakening of interest in one of the most important figures of the 20th century, a true moral giant." -Lachlan Farrow, President of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowshipshow more

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