Albert Schweitzer, Extend the Circle of Compassion To All Living Things
Albert Schweitzer said, “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, born January 14, 1875, was a physician, theologian and renown philosopher and pioneer in the world of animal protection. He was an early advocate for the ethical treatment of animals and a strong protagonist in the evolution of our concept of animal rights. Dr. Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his “Reverence for Life” philosophy and said, “Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”Dr. Schweitzer believed the principle of ethics was only complete if it was inclusive of all living beings, both human and non-human animals. “The absolute and the universal belong together,” he proclaimed. “If there really is a fundamental principle of ethics,” Schweitzer argued, “it must somehow refer to the relation of man to life as such in all of its manifestations.” Schweitzer believed that a universal “truth” and core principle must be inclusive of non-human beings, since the universe is not only made up of humans—but must include all life. His “Reverence for Life” philosophy embraced all living creatures as one, mammals, fish, birds, insects, plants, reptiles, and fungi, had one thing in common—the were united by their will to keep on living. Schweitzer wrote, “I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live.” He believed simply that, “it is good to maintain life and to promote life; it is evil to destroy life and to restrict life.” He believed that humans had a duty and responsibility to support and promote other living beings and their right to live, and our greatest duty, is to respect and cherish all other organisms’ right to exist. His ethics demand that one never thoughtlessly or intentionally harm another, whether human or animal.
Dr. Schweitzer first presented his “Reverence for Life” philosophy at a series of lectures he was invited to give in Sweden. He expanded and further developed his theory in his 1923 manuscript Civilization and Ethics and in his unfinished four-part Philosophy of Culture: The World-view of Reverence for Life.
Schweitzer also wrote the book, The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer, a collection of Schweitzer’s writings about the application of ethics to the animal kingdom. His philosophy has made a difference and has led to the passage of laws and helping the cause of animal rights in the latter half of the twentieth century.
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