Albert Schweitzer's Ethical Vision A Sourcebook

Oxford University Press
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The philosophy of Albert Schweitzer has proved widely influential in modern thinking, especially in the field of ethics. His leading ethical idea can be summarized in the phrase "reverence for life" - namely, that good consists in maintaining and perfecting life, and evil consists in destroying and obstructing life. For Schweitzer, all life is sacred. Ethics thus deals with human attitudes and behavior toward all living beings. Unlike many moral philosophers, Schweitzer argues that knowledge of human nature does not provide a sufficient foundation for any adequate moral theory. That is why he bases his ethics on much broader foundations, articulated in his philosophy of civilization and the philosophy of religion. Schweitzer argues that the material aspect of our civilization has become far more important than its spiritual counterpart. Even organized religion has put itself in the service of politics and economy, thereby losing its vitality and moral authority. Schweitzer's ethics of reverence for life, argues Predrag Cicovacki, offers a viable alternative at a time when traditional ethical theories are found inadequate. Schweitzer's robust and un-dogmatic idealism may offer the best antidote to the prevailing relativism and nihilism of the postmodern epoch. His ethical vision directs us toward a new way of building a more just and more peaceful world. Collecting sixteen of Schweitzer's most effective essays, this volume serves as a compelling introduction to this remarkable thinker and humanist.
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About the author

Predrag Cicovacki is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Peace Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He is author of Dostoevsky and the Affirmation of Life and Between Truth and Illusion: Kant at the Crossroads of Modernity.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Feb 2, 2009
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9780199703326
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Ethics
Religion / Philosophy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence.

For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness—something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.

While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism—in its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with plenty powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.

In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.

Industrialization and modernity have ushered in an epoch of spectacular and unexampled violence, although, as Armstrong explains, relatively little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time.

At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong’s sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.
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