Reverence for Life: Albert Schweitzers Great Contribution to Ethical Thought

Hardcover | January 15, 2008

byAra Paul Barsam

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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 Barsamprovides 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 thattradition, 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 alsodeveloped 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 theologicalfoundations. 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 twentieth-century.

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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 -...

Ara Paul Barsam is Supervisory Public Affairs Officer at the United States Agency for Intenational Development in the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia. He is also Adjunct Professor of Theology and Ethics, Theology Faculty at Yerevan State University in Armenia.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:192 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:January 15, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195329554

ISBN - 13:9780195329551

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"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, andBarsam 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 indesperate need of respect and reverence for life." --Marvin Meyer, Director, Chapman University Albert Schweitzer Institute