Written By: Jacques Feschotte Translated By: John Russell Reviewed Edition: Adam and Charles Black Limited, London, 1954 No ISBN shown Hardcover, 130 pages Quotes Table of Contents
A note in Albert Schweitzer: An Introduction describes the book as an introduction to a more complete biography of Schweitzer, plus two otherwise unpublished Schweitzer works that give the book "a permanent value". This describes the book perfectly. The biographical portion of the book adequately describes Schweitzer's life and thought through the early 1950s, but is a poor substitute for more recent and complete biographies such as James Brabazon's Albert Schweitzer: A Biography, and in fact adds little to Schweitzer's autobiographical Out of My Life and Thought.
The appendices containing the texts of two speeches given by Schweitzer, on the other hand, are unique and important. In the first speech, given to an audience in Colmar, Alsace in 1949, Schweitzer reminisces about his childhood time in Colmar. As usual with Schweitzer autobiographical works, it provides glimpses into his life combined with ethical lessons. The second speech, given to the French Academy of Science in 1952, provides the best, most succinct description of Reverence for Life that I have ever read. In 16 pages, Schweitzer describes the foundation and implications of his ethical philosophy. I have included a few quotations below to help explicate this meager review, but it is only due to copyright considerations that I have resisted including the entire text of Schweitzer's speech.
[Quoting Schweitzer during one of his return visits to Gunsbach] "'If I am called to God during one of my visits here,' he said firmly to me, 'I want to rejoin my own people in the little cemetery here. But if I fall into my last sleep in Africa--why then, I should want to be buried in Lambarene. It's only logical to lie where one falls, and the earth is God's earth, no matter where it is.'"
"Music was soon revealed to [Schweitzer] for what it really is: not a mere pastime, but a message of faith and of love."
Once or twice, however, I have witnessed [Schweitzer's] irritation when an article has caught his eye: "I'd sooner be unknown in my own country than have them write me up like a prizefighter!"
[From Schweitzer's 1952 speech to the French Academy of Science] "The idea of the brotherhood of man never became popular in ancient times. But there is great importance for the future in the fact that philosophers should have acclaimed it as eminently rational. We must admit, though, that the idea that a human being as such has a right to our interest has never enjoyed the full authority to which it might lay claim. Right up to our own time it has been menaced, as it is to-day, by the importance which we ascribe to differences of race, or religious belief, or nationality. It is these differences which make us look upon our kinsman as a stranger deserving of indifference, if not, indeed, of contempt."
[From Schweitzer's 1952 speech to the French Academy of Science] "One last conclusion must be drawn from the principle of devotion: it no longer allows us to concern ourselves only with other human beings. We must behave in exactly the same way towards all living creatures, of whatever kind, whose fate may in some respect be our concern. They too are our kith and our kin, inasmuch as they too crave happiness, know the meaning of fear and suffering, and dread annihilation. To a man who has kept his feelings intact, it is quite natural to have pity for all living creatures. ... Each one of us, therefore, must judge whether it is really necessary for us to kill and to cause pain. We must resign ourselves to our guilt, because our guilt is forced upon us. We must seek forgiveness by letting slip no opportunity of being of use to a living creature."
[From Schweitzer's 1952 speech to the French Academy of Science] "The immediate datum of our consciousness, to which we revert whenever we want to understand ourselves and our situation in the world, is this: I am life which wants to live, and all around me is life that wants to live. Myself permeated by the will-to-life, I affirm my life: not simply that I want to go on living, but that I feel my life as a mystery and a standard of value. When I think about life, I feel obliged to respect all the will-to-life around me, and to feel in it a mysterious value that is the equal of my own. The fundamental idea of good, therefore, is that it consists in preserving life, in favouring it and wishing to raise it to its highest point; and evil consists in the destruction of life, in the injury of life, or in the frustration of its development."
Table of Contents of Albert Schweitzer: An Introduction
Foreword: Albert Schweitzer at Gunsbach
- Family, Childhood and Adolescence
- The Years of Study, Beginnings as a Writer and Traveller. Departure for Africa
- Lambarene. The War of 1914. The First Return to Europe.
- Africa and Europe. The Second World War. The Present.
- The Wisdom of Albert Schweitzer. The Philosopher and the Theologian.
- The Musician and the Artist.
- The Manifold Mission: Doctor, Colonist and Apostle.Conclusion
Childhood Recollections of Old Colmar
The Problem of Ethics in the Evolution of Human Thought
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