Reverence for Life: Albert Schweitzer's Great Contribution to Ethical Thought / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $7.29
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 86%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (15) from $7.29   
  • New (9) from $10.64   
  • Used (6) from $7.29   


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 twentieth-century.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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 Fellowship

"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

"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

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195329551
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/29/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction     ix
The New Quest for Schweitzer     3
Conversations across a Doorway     31
The Voyage to India     55
Seeking the Kingdom     75
Knowing the "One Unknown"     99
Rediscovering Lambarene     119
The Quest Goes On     141
Notes     163
Selected Bibliography     189
Index     193
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)