Albert Schweitzer's Reverence for Life by Mike W. Martin

By Mike W. Martin

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311, 314–15, 328. Cf. Harry G. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004). Albert Schweitzer, Goethe: Five Studies, trans. Charles R. Joy (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1961), p. 3. , p. 140. , pp. 139–40. , p. 141. Schweitzer, A Place for Revelation, p. 48. Schweitzer, Philosophy of Civilization, p. 122. , pp. 105, 124. Schweitzer fails to appreciate Aristotle’s unification of the virtues under his conception of eudaemonia (well-being, happiness). Schweitzer, Philosophy of Civilization, p.

40 Ultimately, how far we widen the circle of moral concern turns on our capacities for bioempathy, and those capacities vary greatly. I find myself utterly unable to feel sympathy-generating empathy for microorganisms that threaten human lives. Even when I understand their role within wider ecosystems, I feel no sorrow or regret in eradicating them. Nor, however, do I find myself eager to draw a sharp line that separates valuable from non-valuable life. Within wide limits, Schweitzer’s expansion of empathy to ever-widening circles of living organisms is an appealing ideal.

Turn now to the claim that falling short of the ideal of reverence for life makes us guilty. Schweitzer admirably sets a higher standard than conventional morality by linking each virtue to high ideals of love and self-perfecting. For example, ordinary ethics tends to regard forgiveness as a generous gesture which, in practice, flatters us by raising us above the person we forgive. 41 But, we are told, absolute ideals do not merely set a standard higher than convention; they call for perfection.

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