The Philosophy of Civilization
by Albert Schweitzer

A great book. His critique of major moral philosophies is brilliant and shows his great breadth of knowledge. The main part of his thesis is sensible and I agree with it. He rejects life-denying ethics as nonethical (Schopenhower, Chinese). He rejects ethics that presuppose an optimistic world view (Christianity, Marxism, Hegelianism). He recommends divorcing world view from life affirmation. The most real thing is the will to live. It is not necessary to base the will to live on a belief in progress or vice versa.

Reverence for life is the basis of ethics and it follows directly from the will to live, which we know directly and demonstrate constantly. So far so good. Then he gets silly. He sees will-to-live in inanimate objects and makes it the basic fact of the universe. He also begins talking about uniting with the absolute (whatever that might mean). However, his point that the ultimate foundation of ethics (will to live) is fundamentally mysterious, mystical, unfathomable, and religious is well made.

Year Read: 1977

Back to Libertarian Essays by Roy Halliday
Back to Nonfiction Book Notes
Back to Fiction Book Notes
Back to Book Notes by Author

This page was last updated on September 22, 2011.
This site is maintained by Roy Halliday. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them to