Famous for founding the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in what is now the West African country of Gabon, Albert Schweitzer’s ethical philosophy of “Reverence for Life” became one of the most influential ideas of the twentieth century. These four volumes chart the development of Schweitzer’s philosophy from his student days to his career as a globally revered intellectual.
The Essence of Faith: While studying for his PhD at the Sorbonne, Schweitzer developed his views on theology through an analysis of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of religion. In The Essence of Faith, Schweitzer explores Kantian ideas to arrive at an inspiring meditation on God, faith, and the limits of human understanding.
Pilgrimage to Humanity: In Pilgrimage to Humanity, Schweitzer discusses his philosophy, his ministry in Africa, and his pursuit of world peace. He also explores the important contributions to civilization made by figures such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, J. S. Bach, and Jesus of Nazareth.
The Quest of the Historical Jesus: In this landmark work of Biblical criticism, Schweitzer deconstructs the traditional myths of Jesus’s life by offering rigorous textual analysis and historical evidence. By establishing the social and political climate of Jesus’s time, Schweitzer not only dismantles the previously dominant images of Jesus, but also presents a compelling new theory of his own.
The Light Within Us: In The Light Within Us, Schweitzer’s longtime friend Richard Kik has compiled many of his most insightful and inspiring quotations. Drawn from his many writings, these quotations share Schweitzer’s thoughts on service, gratitude, God, missionary work, and much more.
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About the Author
He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”, expressed in many ways, but most famously in founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, now in Gabon, west central Africa (then French Equatorial Africa). As a music scholar and organist, he studied the music of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and influenced the Organ reform movement (Orgelbewegung).
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The Sketch of a Philosophy of Religion in the Critique of Pure Reason
THE DESIGNATION of "sketch of a philosophy of religion" for that section of the Critique of Reason in which moral and religious interests are detectable in Kant's thinking is justified by the kind of presentation Kant makes. On pp. 605 ff. of the canon of pure reason there is, indeed, a somewhat sketchy presentation of the thoughts which appear in a purely side-by-side arrangement, without exhibiting the unity of the Critique of Pure Reason. The concept of the postulate, the definition of religion, the comprehensive justification of the autonomy of the moral law, and the related and deeply probing treatment of the problem of freedom have not been attained here. The whole section merely forms the conclusion of the critical investigation concerning the limits of human knowledge; it treats the practical use of pure reason, in distinction from the speculative use. Nevertheless, it is just by virtue of this close connection with the investigations of critical idealism that this sketch of a philosophy of religion becomes valuable for the portrayal of the philosophy of religion in critical idealism.
The section of the Critique of Pure Reason dealing with the philosophy of religion offers, though perhaps only in outlines, the most consistent presentation of Kant's philosophy of religion in so far as it is the philosophy of religion of "critical idealism." Is it, then, correct to say that the development of the thought in this sketch of a philosophy of religion corresponds to the projected philosophy of religion of critical idealism as announced in the investigations of the Critique of Pure Reason? Is the outline of the sketch of a philosophy of religion identical with the outlines of a philosophy of religion in the transcendental dialectic in so far as the latter intends to lay the groundwork for a sketch of a philosophy of religion?
The practical use of reason leads us into the realm of morals and religion. Critical idealism furnishes the matter for the transcendental hypotheses which demonstrate the possibility of the ideas of reason. Thus, in the interrelationship of transcendental hypotheses with the assumptions of reason for practical purposes, there lies, at the same time, the relation of critical idealism to the philosophy of religion which is based on it. The ideas which are realized in the practical realm are prepared for this task by the instrumentality of critical idealism. They have moved into a sort of position of equilibrium, from which reason, employed practically, then pulls them toward its own realm. This relationship is also expressed in Kant's terminology; he speaks, in this connection, of a theoretical (speculative) and a practical use of pure reason, yet does not distinguish — as he does later in the Critique of Practical Reason — between the two. This terminological distinction is grounded in a difference in thinking.
Very instructive is a footnote in the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason where Kant connects the psychological, cosmological, and theological ideas with the ideas of God, freedom, and immortality, after developing them in the sequence of their later dialectical treatment: "Metaphysics has only three ideas as the true object of its search: God, freedom and immortality, understood so that the second concept in combination with the first should lead to the third as the necessary conclusion. Everything else with which this science occupies itself serves it only as a means to attain these ideas and their reality. It needs them not for the sake of natural science, but in order to transcend nature. Insight into them would make theology, morality, and (by combining the two) religion, and, hence, the highest aims of our existence dependent merely on the speculative faculty of reason, and nothing else. In a systematic presentation of these ideas, the order, as given, would be the most appropriate one, being synthetic. However, in the preliminary treatment which is necessary, the analytical presentation which reverses this order will be more appropriate, so that we may, proceeding from what experience presents us with immediately — that is, from psychology to cosmology and, hence, to the knowledge of God — realize our grand design" (p. 290). This passage is most important for the problem confronting us.
With the treatment of the problem of freedom we have reached the point where the positive exposition of the sketch of a philosophy of religion begins to clearly stand out from the outlines of our transitional thinking. We have presented the latter up till now in their most general formulation so as to be able to survey the thinking by which the Critique of Pure Reason arrives from its critical labor at those sections which have reference to the practical realization of the three ideas of God, freedom and immortality.
Let us summarize the essential points of the investigation thus far. The keynote of the transitional thoughts comes to the fore in Kant's use of language. By the expressions "pure reason in theoretical usage" and "pure reason in practical usage," he is indicating that at this juncture the absolute unity of reason is much more strongly than at any time later the presupposition of his thinking. At the same time, we are given to understand that his thoughts about the philosophy of religion advance here on the presupposition that the "ideas" which reason realizes in its practical use are absolutely identical with the ideas to which reason in its theoretical employment had been driven as it advanced of necessity from the conditioned to the unconditioned. Overcoming skepticism is the point from which the transitional thoughts we have noted start. With this, we have expressed the basic thought of the sketch of the philosophy of religion in the transcendental dialectic. This now obligates us to clearly expound how, from the number of the ideas treated, the three ideas have developed which are realized later practically, that is, how they specifically attained a practical religious value.
Kant is cautious and reticent when he applies the term "idea" to the individual subjects treated in the cosmological discussions. On p. 345, he specifically speaks of four cosmological ideas: "There are, therefore, not more than four cosmological ideas, according to the four headings of the categories." The linguistic expression regarding the term idea is pursued consistently only for the concept of freedom. (The reasons for and the significance of this fact will occupy us shortly.) Kant remains consistent, however, in his thought heralded by the designation "system of cosmological ideas," in that he retains the cosmological ideas in systematic connection in those sections where, from the standpoint of the practical use of reason, interest in the thoughts treated in the cosmological dispute is illuminated. The clearest expression of this systematic connection may be found in those lines which designate the decisive turning point at which the cosmological ideas move into the spotlight of reason in its practical use.
What interest does reason have for the "thesis" in question in the cosmological dispute? "First of all, a certain practical interest which every right-thinking person shares heartily if he looks out for his real advantage. That the world has a beginning, that my thinking self is of a simple and, therefore, indestructible nature, that this self is, at the same time, free in its spontaneous actions and beyond natural necessity, and that, finally, the whole order of things which constitute the world are derived from some original Being from whom everything borrows its unity and purposeful connection — these are so many foundation stones of morality and religion."
In order to appreciate the entire significance of these lines, one must again and again remind oneself of the fact that we are dealing here with a section in which Kant stresses only the practical value of the cosmological thoughts, not that of the problems treated generally in the dialectic. Here we are merely concerned with the "system of cosmological ideas." All four antinomies are represented, all four are evaluated practically, and all four stand in that particular context in which they had been treated previously dialectically. Simultaneously with this practical evaluation they were subjected to a deflection from their generality in the direction of their formulation with reference to the knowing subject.
What significance do the antinomies have for the ethical and religious view of the world of the knowing subject which sees through their dialectical appearance?
The first antinomy is most thoroughly opposed to this new orientation: "The world has a beginning in time and is, furthermore, limited in regard to space" (p. 354). Even in the dialectical treatment, this first antinomy looks somewhat strange. One has the impression that the dialectic would not suffer if this antinomy had been kept from us. Its subordinate place appears at the instant the transcendental ideas move toward the realm of reason in its practical use. It loses half of its scope in that it only retains its temporal character while it has lost its connection with space. "That the world has a beginning. ... is a foundation stone of morals and religion" (p. 385). In this abbreviated form, where the stiltedness of the connection of the first cosmological idea with the thought of the conclusion is clearly apparent, we see that the first cosmological idea is dragged onto the new field only because of its systematic connection with the rest of the ideas. The mutilation which it suffers thereby, and the unaccustomed atmosphere of the practical use of reason, accelerate its inevitable end. Exhausted, it collapses. In what follows, not even its demise is announced. It is the fate of every artificial existence.
In the practical ramifications of the cosmological antinomies which extend through several sections (pp. 382-451), the main interest is taken up by the idea of freedom which is treated therein. The central position which this idea occupies in Kant's philosophy in general and in his philosophy of religion in particular comes clearly to the fore. Nowhere has any idea been so fully prepared with respect to its practical realization as the idea of freedom has been in this case. This is already indicated in the frequent use of the word "idea" in application to the concept of freedom treated here, while, for the rest, the application of this term to the theses of the "system of cosmological ideas" remains rather limited. It is quite characteristic for the correctness of the previous investigation that Kant refers to freedom in this connection now as a "transcendental idea," and then again as a "cosmological idea," without indicating that the latter designation really ought to stand in a subordinate relationship to the former. This idea of freedom is the only one which Kant developed to the point where it is about to experience its practical realization. It is exactly that idea which is discussed mainly in the Critique of Practical Reason. Thus, at the end of this investigation concerning the scheme of a philosophy of religion in the dialectic, it remains for us to briefly call to mind the preparation which the practical realization of the idea of freedom receives in the transitional sections of the second main portion of the second book of the dialectic in order to be able to decide, as we pass on to the sketch of the philosophy of religion, whether and to what extent the treatment and realization of the idea of freedom given on pp. 608 and 609 correspond to the anticipatory discussion which Kant offers us with regard to this problem.
The preliminary discussion of the practical realization of the idea of freedom takes place on pp. 428 to 445. In every respect, the discussions in these pages set forth the culmination of Kant's presentation of the dialectic. The whole investigation progresses in a highly effective crescendo.
First of all, Kant brings clarity to the problem that is raised here. What is the relationship between the idea of freedom in practical reason and the transcendental or cosmological idea of freedom when reason is used theoretically? By the first-mentioned, Kant understands "the independence of spontaneity from being necessitated by the promptings of sensibility" (p. 429). The last-mentioned has reference to the decision as to "whether causality in conformity to the laws of nature is the only causality or whether we have to assume an additional causality through freedom to explain it" (p. 368). If one were to adhere to the definition given here it would appear as if there were two ideas of freedom independent of each other of which the former does not depend on the latter for realization. However, on p. 385 the practical idea of freedom is already understood as that form which "the cosmological idea of freedom" assumes in its transition to the field of the practical use of reason. This relationship is again attested to on p. 429, and the circumstance is emphasized. And it is in this that Kant's thinking advances — that in this linkage of the two, the difficulty of the realization of the practical idea of freedom rests. "It is extremely noteworthy that the practical concept of freedom is based on this transcendental idea of freedom, and that the transcendental idea of freedom constitutes the really difficult factor in the practical concept, a circumstance which has surrounded the problem of its possibility ever since" (p. 429). We could designate this proposition as fundamental in Kant's treatment of the problem of freedom. Thus, the possibility of solving this difficulty is a matter solely for transcendental philosophy (p. 430). In all this, the insight of critical idealism into the character of the world of appearance offers the only starting point from where removal of the difficulty may be begun, "for if appearances are things-in- themselves, freedom cannot be salvaged" (p. 431). Hence, the cosmological idea of freedom can be presented by means of critical idealism in conjunction with a general "necessity" (p. 434), provided this connection can be justified at all. That the "cosmological idea of freedom" is treated here with a view to the practical idea of freedom is evident from the fact that the problem of the connection between freedom and the law of causality is no longer put in relationship at all with appearances, as it was in the third cosmological antinomy, but is related to the relationship of human action with the causality of appearances as was done on p. 385. Kant's statement here attains wonderful clarity: "Man is one of those appearances of the sensuous world and, hence, also one of the natural causes whose causality must be subject to empirical laws. As such, man must, therefore, also have an empirical character, just as all other things in nature. Man alone, who otherwise knows nature merely through his senses, knows himself also in mere apperception and, to be sure, in actions and inner determinations which he cannot count among the sense impressions at all. He is, let us acknowledge, on the one hand, a phenomenon for himself, but, on the other hand — and that in view of certain faculties — a mere intelligible object because his actions cannot be counted as receptivity of sensibility" (pp. 437 and 438). The kind of necessity expressed by the "ought" permits us to look upon the case as possible in itself that reason, in view of appearance, does possess causality (pp. 438 and 439). Concerning the actuality or possibility of this practical freedom, nothing can be stated if we consider it in its indissoluble relation to the transcendental idea of freedom. Only the fact "that nature is at least not struggling against the causality of freedom, was the only thing we were able to accomplish, showing which was what we had solely and merely in mind" (p. 445).
The scheme of a philosophy of religion in the transcendental dialectic consisted in procuring — as concerns the practical use of reason — practical reality for the speculative ideas of pure reason in so far as we are persuaded that its significance concerns the practical use of reason. The idea of freedom corresponds to the third cosmological idea. It has reference to "whether causality according to the laws of nature is the only one from which the appearances of this world can in toto be derived, or whether it is possible to assume, in addition, a causality through freedom." (cf. Critique of Pure Reason, p. 368). For a rational being, the problem thus stated holds interest because it depends for its solution on whether his actions may be explained only by the general law of causality according to the mechanism of nature into which they are, as phenomena, incorporated, or whether he can consider these same actions as a space-time explanation of intelligible facts which are free in so far as they concern the intelligible cause of our volition. The idea of freedom which tends toward practical realization — and so all we have said up to now may be summarized — is the transcendental idea of freedom which rests upon the relationship of the intelligible and the phenomenal world which critical idealism has demonstrated as possible.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Four Volumes on Christianity"
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Table of Contents
The Essence of Faith,
The Sketch of a Philosophy of Religion in the Critique of Pure Reason,
The Critique of Practical Reason,
Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone,
The Critique of Judgment,
General Summary and Conclusion,
Pilgrimage to Humanity,
I. Europe and Human Culture,
II. African Problems,
III. The Story of My Life,
c. In the Second World War,
d. In the Unrest of the Time,
V. Johann Sebastian Bach,
VI. The Unknown One,
VII. Reverence for Life,
VIII. World Peace,
The Quest of the Historical Jesus,
I. The Problem,
II. Hermann Samuel Reimarus,
III. The Lives of Jesus of the Earlier Rationalism,
IV. The Earliest Fictitious Lives of Jesus,
V. Fully Developed Rationalism — Paulus,
VI. The Last Phase of Rationalism — Hase and Schleiermacher,
VII. David Friedrich Strauss — The Man and His Fate,
VIII. Strauss's First "Life of Jesus",
IX. Strauss's Opponents and Supporters,
X. The Marcan Hypothesis,
XI. Bruno Bauer. The First Sceptical Life of Jesus,
XII. Further Imaginative Lives of Jesus,
XIV. The "Liberal" Lives of Jesus,
XV. The Eschatological Question,
XVI. The Struggle Against Eschatology,
XVII. Questions Regarding the Aramaic Language, Rabbinic Parallels, and Buddhistic Influence,
XVIII. The Position of the Subject at the Close of the Nineteenth Century,
XIX. Thoroughgoing Scepticism and Thoroughgoing Eschatology,
The Light Within Us,
Key to References,