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Albert Schweitzer and Ludwig Wittgenstein as Christians, in some sense

If we say in "some sense", then mustn't we also say in which sense? that is, in which sense Yes, and in which sense No.

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Notes: Among the many other pages on this site about Albert Schweitzer are: Ethics and World-view, and Oskar Kraus' criticism of Schweitzer's "Reverence for Life".

Differences in Wittgenstein's and Schweitzer's conceptions of religion are briefly contrasted here. Differences between their conceptions of philosophy are contrasted elsewhere.

The logical path to reverence for life

I have tried to trace a logical path from one principle ("I am a will to live in the midst of other wills to live"), which is a very general fact of nature, to the other principle ("reverence for life"), which is an ethics derived from that principle. That is, reverence for life is here discussed not as the product of "thought" (insight), but as the result of step-by-step reasoning. Note: This discussion presupposes the earlier description of Schweitzer's concept 'Reverence for Life'.

The ethic of Reverence for Life is the ethic of love widened into universality. It is the ethic of Jesus, now recognized as a logical consequence of thought. (Out of my Life and Thought, tr. Lemke (1990), Epilogue, p. 235)

That is what Schweitzer said, but he did not, so far as I am aware, show that logic -- i.e. the step-by-step reasoning -- and that is what I want to try to do: to make that logic explicit. (There may be more than one way to do this, but there is in any case at least one way, the following way.)

Note.--I have left these notes raw, i.e. just in the way and in the order in which they were thought [Anything I added later is in square brackets, like this note itself]. For it now seems that I am writing my logic of language studies solely for the desk drawer, solely for the reasons Plato states in Phaedrus 276c-d, for otherwise the place to write your thoughts is, as Antisthenes said, in your mind, rather than in a notebook which you might lose.

Schweitzer's beginning with the [fundamental] fact of life [existence], that I am a life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live, as a first principle. Maybe this is like Wittgenstein's "I must begin with the distinction between sense and nonsense. Nothing is possible prior to that", i.e. it is the foundation of logic of language: nothing can be done in logic without it. Maybe it is like Socrates' "I must define 'know' as 'to give an account that can stand up against refutation'; nothing is possible prior to that". Is it the same or is it different? But Schweitzer doesn't say "nothing is possible prior to that", but only that this is the first principle that "I am able to discover", which is a claim I don't understand [i.e. see the justification for].

Maybe this is it: that the first principle I can find [the first discovery I can make] from the point of view of ethics is ["I am a will to live in the midst of other wills to live"]. Descartes' first principle e.g. has no ethical aspect, has no ethical content, has no connection to ethics. (Solipsism, like idealism, is a "speculative position" (Fichte), that is to say, perceptually the world of the solipsist and the world of the non-solipsist are identical.) The first principle from the point of view of ethics. The question is: what does one build on that principle; need one go in the direction Schweitzer does, that is to say, to reverence for life? Clearly, there is a missing step here in my thinking.

"... in every way mysterious" ["in every way puzzling"]. That is, that we find [feel] it beyond our ability to conceptualize ["We cannot know"], i.e. to make sense of, because we feel that no conception could encompass our experience [that life exists, that I as an individual exist, and that other life exists]. (And that is what we mean by calling it a mystery [calling it 'mysterious']. Here you really could say: "it is a thought of God's [cf. Isaiah 55.9] that a man no more than a goat can think.) But how to get from there to reverence for life.

How do we respond to this mystery? What must our attitude toward [our response to] it be? The question is, is there a "must" here: what kind of necessity -- it would have to be logical necessity [i.e. deriving one proposition from other propositions; this may be called "Rationalism", although another way to call that is: the investigation of the (grammatical) relations between our concepts. And that is not an idle investigation: concepts are the tools of thought and seeing how they interlock makes our way of thinking clearer to us.] There is something here I am not seeing. I'm just not finding the step that's missing.

If I will [wish] to live, and accept that I will [wish] to live, then isn't my attitude towards [the fact] of my life one of reverence? And then we introduce the principle that one should not do to other life what one does not want done to one's own life (Epictetus, the Gospel ["... and love thy neighbor as thyself"], and so on), namely, harm it ["The good man harms no one; harming others is what the bad [the evil] man does" (Plato, Republic 335e)]. And if that is the case, then if I revere my own life, I must revere all other life; and that if I seek to preserve and enhance my own life, then I must seek to preserve and enhance all other life. That introduces another principle; perhaps both are needed [an inherent principle, an assumed principle], although Schweitzer does not make that step, does not include that step. That is one way to get from the first principle, the "mystery" [puzzle], to Reverence for Life.

Is what I have spoken of a matter of logical necessity? It seems that it is -- but in all this what remains problematical is the notion of reverence. If I wish to preserve and enhance my own life, is that synonymous with saying that I revere my life? In any case, in the formula "reverence for life", the reverence part is problematical. Synonyms for 'reverence' are 'profound respect [as toward something sacred]' e.g., and it is certainly awe we feel when we confront the "mystery". That is the awe portion of Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben ("Reverence for Life" but a reverence that is full of awe [profound astonishment]). What I need is a definition of 'reverence', at this point. [Or, actually not, for I have already said in this paragraph what I mean by that word.]

The subject of ethics is how to live our life and that subject must include our relations with other life [how one must live with respect to other life]. And then we have to look for the first [the operative] principle/s [in those relations] within the context of ethics.

And now I have found many friends in Prague ... and all because you have spoken up for me -- for me, a man whose views run counter to your ideal of thought in an extremely crucial aspect. (Letter from Lambaréné to Oscar Kraus, 23 March 1927, in Albert Schweitzer, Letters 1905-1965, tr. Neugroschel (1992), p. 98)

The way someone believes that philosophy should be done e.g. is an "ideal of thought".

Neither Schweitzer nor Wittgenstein is my ideal of how an one should do philosophy: (1) Wittgenstein for the way he limited the subject of philosophy, excluding from it, not only metaphysics, but also ethics (an exclusion which his later work gives no justification for), and (2) Schweitzer because, although he was correct, in my view, to emphasize ethics above the rest of philosophy, the absence of a "logic of language", a reasoned-out logic of language or at least a self-consciousness in his writing about the distinction between sense and nonsense and how a philosopher must [should] make that distinction. Also, as I have remarked above, so far as I can tell, Schweitzer does not make the steps by which to go from the fundamental mystery of our existence to reverence for life clear step-by-step, although I believe that can be done as I have done above. If the best qualities of both these thinkers could be combined then I think that would be my ideal of how philosophy should be done [my ideal of a philosophical thinker], as indeed Socrates is my ideal of how philosophy should be done and lived.

Christians in some sense ... But in which sense?

Note: this section is quite rough. All that matters here is the principle of comparison which is here refined. And that simple statements are in the cases of Wittgenstein and Schweitzer impossible to make.

Query: why did Albert Schweitzer decide to be Christian?

On the one hand, it would be foolishness to say that Schweitzer wasn't in some sense a Christian. But it might also be foolish to say that about Wittgenstein. Of course what is problematical is: in which particular sense of "in some sense" were they Christians? In which particular way were they "followers of Jesus"? With which understanding of Him? Which "image of Christ" (Dostoyevsky) had each made for himself? It is not correct to say that he "decided to be", for he had always been: "Jesus has simply kept me prisoner since my childhood" (Schweitzer wrote in a letter). He was someone who tried to live his entire life in the spirit of Jesus, following Jesus commandment to "love one another", for that was the ethics of Jesus, which is the ethics of love.

The principle of comparison: In some sense Yes, and therefore also in some sense No.

About Schweitzer's religion: "Christianity cannot take the place of thinking, but it must be founded on it." That is, dogmatic belief cannot replace reason as the guide, nor can it ever silence thought.

Query: Albert Schweitzer lost his belief.

Given that Schweitzer, despite being a man of deep religious faith, had never held a dogmatic "belief in God" or "belief in Providence" (i.e. in God as directing particular events in our life and in the world), he could not very well lose what he had never had. Since childhood he had been a man of thoroughgoing reason, and he later wrote:

Only when we gain the confidence that we can find the truth through our own individual thought will we be able to arrive at living truth. (Out of My Life and Thought, Epilogue, p. 227)

I know that I myself owe it to thought that I was able to retain my faith in religion. (ibid. p. 240)

As for the rest: "you cannot lose your ideals, if you live them" (cf. Memoirs of Childhood and Youth, tr. Campion, p. 76-77), and Schweitzer did and never lost his. The greatest of these ideals were reverence for truth, and reverence for life (which is Jesus' ethics of love broadened to include all life).

Query: was Albert Schweitzer a believer?

Not if we put it that way, he wasn't. Because Schweitzer rejected dogma precisely because it was dogma; he regarded that way of thinking, that type of belief (i.e. "belief in"), as pre-Enlightenment. (On Schweitzer as a Christian, see Christianity as an ethical, not an explanatory, religion; and Albert Schweitzer's own Christian faith, his statement as a young man, in his late twenties.) However, in the case of Christian dogma it was not that simple a rejection, for it must be remembered that in Schweitzer's view the Christian dogmas (doctrines, articles of faith) were an incorrect -- i.e. an ahistorical -- reading of the Bible to begin with (Schweitzer's method as a theologian was the critical-historical method); and therefore with respect to those dogmas, it was not simply a question of rejecting dogma simply because it was dogma, but also of rejecting those particular dogmas themselves. (The standard for Schweitzer was always reverence for truth, Paul's words: "For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth" (2 Corinthians 13.8).)

[When they met in Munster, Switzerland, Schweitzer said to Karl Barth:] You and I started from the same problem, the disintegration of modern thought, but whereas you went back to the Reformation, I went back to the Enlightenment. (Seaver, Albert Schweitzer: Christian Revolutionary (1944), p. 42-43; quoted by Marshall in An Understanding of Albert Schweitzer (1966), p. 120)

Wittgenstein, whose religious views were very far from those of the Enlightenment, thought that Karl Barth's writing "must have come from a remarkable religious experience" (Recollections, p. 146); but he was also critical of Barth's insistence on particular formulations of doctrine (CV p. 85, a remark from 1950). In Wittgenstein's view, sound doctrines cannot redeem a captive of sin (ransom a lost soul from the devil): "I believe that one of the things Christianity says is that sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life (or the direction of your life)" (ibid. p. 53, a remark from 1946) -- i.e. the conversion required isn't the acceptance of the correct statement of a creed ("sound doctrine"), an armchair act; it is not e.g. only a way of looking at things that needs to change. [Wittgenstein's way of thinking (or not thinking) is anti-Socratic, of course, as is every other surrender of the rational man to the irrational beast.]

Regarding Albert Schweitzer, Wittgenstein said that his work only showed "how many, many different ways people can interpret the Gospel story" (Recollections p. 106), which, for Wittgenstein, is the story of God incarnate (CV p. 31 [MS 119 151: 22.10.1937]). As to Wittgenstein's own religion: "... I cannot utter the word 'Lord' [1 Corinthians 12.3] with meaning. Because I do not believe that [Jesus] will come to judge me; because that says nothing to me. And it could only say something to me were I to live quite differently." (CV p. 33, a remark from 1937) That was, therefore, not one of the religious "pictures" that guided Wittgenstein's life. But, on the other hand, he wrote: "What inclines even me [i.e. someone at Wittgenstein's self-supposed low level of [religious] character: "my face is too soft for Christianity to be able to write on it [to make a mark on it]" (ibid. p. 13; MS 153b 39v: 1931)] to believe in Christ's Resurrection? I as it were play with the thought. If he did not rise from the dead, then ... he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and we are once more orphaned and alone." (ibid. p. 33; MS 120 108 c: 12.12.1937)

And so if there is some sense in which both these men were Christians -- then there is also some sense in which they were not Christians. Indeed so many qualifications have to be make to the statement 'He was a Christian' that it might be less misleading not to assert that ... except that it would be equally misleading to assert its contrary, namely, 'He was not a Christian'! (Schweitzer's religious ideas were published in his books and were shown by the way he lived his life ["My life is my argument", that is, how he lived his life was the argument for his ideas]; in the case of Wittgenstein, however, many of his friends and students did not even know that his fundamental view of life was religious ["... I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view" (Recollections p. 79), he told Drury].)

The point would be that this is not a simple question, in either man's case, where it is necessary to try to figure out what each meant by the words 'God' and 'religious belief', because neither held the common view that religion is a collection of doctrines [dogmas that one "internally assents" to as in the recitation of a creed]. Schweitzer's view of religion was nonetheless very different from Wittgenstein's, as different as the Aufklärung's was from Augustine's Catholic Christianity.

Schweitzer, the Enlightenment, and Dogma

Gabriel Langfeldt wrote a study of Schweitzer's thought, published in 1960, in which, in Marshall's words (op. cit. p. 121), Langfeldt "points out that Schweitzer has rejected such concepts as the traditional view of God, the assured efficacy of prayer, the supremacy of faith over reason, the deity of Christ, the sacraments, the virgin birth, atonement, resurrection, and the ascension". But we mustn't simply say that -- We must look at the reason why he rejected those doctrines. It is important to say that he did not reject them in favor of other doctrines; rather, he rejected some on the grounds that they were not found in the world-view of Jesus and late Judaism. As to the "traditional view of God" -- what is that traditional view? It is either Abraham's capricious deity (my characterization) or "the God of the philosophers" of Catholic theology. Was either of those the "father" of whom Jesus spoke?

As to "the assured efficacy of prayer" (Did Schweitzer write about this topic?), as an empirical proposition it is inconsistent with our experience of the world, as Schweitzer in effect says in Christianity and the Religions of the World: we cannot explain the ways of nature ("God as the source of all being"); we can only know God as the will to love ("God as an ethical personality") within us. But of course "the assured efficacy of prayer" is not an empirical proposition; it is doctrine. But Schweitzer was not a believer in doctrine; what interested him was only the spirit of Christ (Schweitzer was a scholar, not in dogmatics, but in critical-historical-scientific theology: from his youth until the end of his life, his view was that "Reason ... is given us that we may bring everything within the range of its action, even the most exalted ideas of religion", which is a view that excludes ever silencing reason in favor of dogma.

As to "the supremacy of faith over reason", that was inconsistent with Schweitzer's world-view since childhood. (In my own words, and expressed religiously, God did not endow man with reason in order to blind him, but in order to make man seek Him and know Him. Making man blind is what dogma does; dogma is the opposite of philosophy. And this really is a parting of the ways: there is no reconciliation between the dogmatic and the undogmatic. Simply calling something "faith" doesn't change its nature.)

As we speak for liberal Christianity and expect men to arrive at religious positions by their own thinking ... Our ideal is not merely liberal Christianity but the most profound Christianity. (Message Schweitzer sent to the 1947 International Association for Liberal Christianity and Religious Freedom, titled "Liberal Christianity" in Pilgrimage to Humanity (1961), p. 74-75, quoted by Marshall, p. 123)

Note.--Schweitzer's ideal was the Enlightenment because at that time thoroughgoing reason was applied to every aspect of life, including the religious, with the dedicated aim of the ethical perfecting of the individual and of society (In religious language, of the Kingdom of God). It was that ideal, not the particular doctrines of that period, e.g. the deism of Paley, that Schweitzer embraced. Marshall writes,

Schweitzer, perhaps the last of the Enlightenment minds, although born a century later, was always true to the principles of reason, naturalism and thought. Those elements combined to make not only his religion but his culture. (p. 148)

"... the principles of reason, naturalism and thought." But Marshall does not say what distinction he means to indicate here by using both the words 'reason' and 'thought', for what do we mean by 'reason', by 'logic', by 'thought'? Are those words not synonyms. Perhaps Marshall's idea is: "thought rather than the silencing of thought", just as "naturalism rather than belief in revelation". But again, aren't 'reason' and 'thought' here synonymous: "... rather than the silencing of reason"?

Bertrand Russell's Ethics

Comment.--Russell was another Enlightenment mind, but Russell contributed nothing to either ethics or religious thought; Schweitzer did. Russell identified himself with Voltaire; Schweitzer did not. Russell belongs with the critics who did not build, Schweitzer with the builders. Russell never established a connection between ethics and world-and-life affirmation (That he made that affirmation, rather than withdrawing from the world as Wittgenstein did, is shown by his involving himself in the events of his time, when he publicly denounced war and then advocated war and then again denounced war and nuclear bomb testing, but his affirmation had no foundation, because, according to Russell's account of ethics, the proposition 'A is good' is equivalent to 'I like A' and no more than that (Wood, Bertrand Russell: the Passionate Skeptic (1957), p. 61, 98): it was irrational enthusiasm); Schweitzer did establish a connection. This contrast clarifies what the Enlightenment ideal was for Schweitzer.

Query: Albert Schweitzer's mystical reasoning.

That query concerns Reverence for Life, because the word 'mystical' must be used with caution. Remember that it was Schweitzer's view that "Christianity cannot take the place of thinking" (Out of My Life and Thought, Epilogue, p. 240), that is, of the critical use of reason. The word 'mystical' for Schweitzer does not mean 'irrational', although 'mystical' does mean 'beyond what man is able to know' -- indeed, mysticism only came at the conclusion of reasoning -- i.e. it came at the end of the argument, not at its beginning. The "mysteries of faith" of "revealed religion" are not a foundation in place of reason in the religion of Schweitzer. Wittgenstein's religious views, on the other hand, were anything but reasonable.

Schweitzer's Religious World-view

Oskar Kraus asked about Schweitzer's way of thinking, because Schweitzer seemed to make no "sufficiently sharp distinction between religious and philosophic thinking", and Schweitzer replied to him that "this has, I think, always been characteristic of me" (Albert Schweitzer: His work and his philosophy, Epilogue to the 2nd ed., tr. McCalman). And so maybe that is why there is the need, from a philosophical point of view, to show the logical path from the puzzle of existence to reverence for life, because Schweitzer does not do this (unless I am mistaken). It is characteristic of religious thinking that it issues from insight, insight that cannot be post-justified by natural reason (i.e. reasoning from non-religious principles/axioms). And this shows that Schweitzer's "Reverence for Life" is not a religious insight.

An example of Schweitzer's religious views [faith]: that man's realization of the Kingdom of God is the ultimate aim of Nature, that although man is unable to understand nature from the ethical point of view, nonetheless he is spiritually united with it through his belief that by working for the Kingdom of God he is working toward the same end as Nature. Is the source of this faith that God is known to us only as love, and that love is, therefore, Nature's aim for man? In contrast to the Stoic pantheism, the essence of God for Schweitzer appears to be love rather than reason. (As to the existence of evil, there is no answer to why it exists. It is the most troubling question for any religious thinker, and it is why the God who is Nature is ethically incomprehensible to us.) On Palm Sunday Schweitzer wrote:

... my thoughts are in Jerusalem, your high-built city. And what happened there -- the entrance of the Lord -- is, for me, the prelude to something that has to come some day: the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

I feel alienated from the whole new trend of ideas because all these people no longer carry within them the idea of the Kingdom of God. They fail to see the distant goal without which one goes astray, but that is why we must carry this yearning and assurance all the more solidly.... We must be people who preserve true thought for a time to come. (Letter from Lambaréné, 10 April 1938, p. 158-159)

For Schweitzer, as well as for Plato (Gorgias 517b, 518e-519a), the most important aspect of progress, that is to say of the improvement of the life of man, is the ethical perfecting of the individual and of society. That idea. And people in our time do not "carry within them" the question Plato asks, of whether the rulers made the people better from an ethical rather than from merely a material ["Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" was the campaign slogan of an infamous American demagogue] point of view. (And faced with "Calm your anger. It's a sin, Matryona; we must all die", it is merely.)

In philosophy Schweitzer spoke not at all about God as the source of all things (Nature). In religion we know of God only as He announces himself to us as the will to love (of which, as of all other things, God is the source). The connection to Jesus is that the spirit of Jesus, the ethics of Jesus, is the spirit of love, the ethics of love.

All living Christianity is pantheistic, since it regards everything that exists as having its origin in the source of all being. But at the same time all ethical piety is superior to any pantheistic mysticism, in that it does not find the God of love in nature, but knows about Him only from the fact that He announces Himself in us as the will to love. The First Cause of Being, as He manifests Himself in nature, is to us always impersonal. To the First Cause of Being that is revealed to us in the will to love, however, we relate as to an ethical personality. (Out of my Life and Thought, p. 241)

I particularly like your book [a new edition of Marcus Aurelius' writings which its editor had sent Schweitzer] because I view stoicism as a recurrent philosophy that issues from nature (and not from definitions) and because I have a spiritual rapport with late stoicism. (Letter from Lambaréné, 25 February 1957, p. 269)

When as a student I began to study the history of philosophy ... [it] seemed to me that the fundamental tenet of Stoicism is correct, namely that man must bring himself into a spiritual relation with the world and become one with it. (Out of my Life and Thought, p. 228-229)

Granted [in my Civilization and Ethics], I was determined to place much greater value on kindness to living creatures than was previously the case, but it was only the phrase "reverence for life" ... that made me realize ethics would have a much deeper and greater energy by taking heed of all creation because it would put us in a spiritual relationship with the entire universe. (Letter, 2 January 1962, p. 314)

Schweitzer believed that he had been called on by the ethics of love, which is the ethics of Jesus, to found his hospital in Africa and devote his life to easing the suffering of the people there.

Something of the spirit of Jesus is always to be found in any true work of love, whether or not this is expressed in words. For myself, I would venture to say that I went to Africa in order to undertake a hazardous and difficult task, designated by the spirit of Jesus.... By living and working here, I feel I am someone who is designated by Jesus and wishes to serve Jesus....

This is the great mystery. The spirit of Jesus commands, and we must obey.... Jesus is the master of our lives, our Lord. We do not teach theories about Him -- that is not the decisive test; rather, we teach the kind of obedience with which we serve Him. (Letter from Lambaréné, 1926, p. 85)

The last part, that we do not explain Jesus, but instead that Jesus calls and we must obey Him, is also expressed -- despite the fundamental difference in their respective views of what Jesus was -- by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Letters and Papers from Prison. (I note this because that kind of religious faith [religious experience] is utterly outside my own experience of life.)

We all have to serve Jesus [in the "service that He has designated" for each of us as individuals, however [no matter how] modest that service may be] and achieve fellowship with God through Jesus, through love.... May we all find in Him the peace that is greater [higher] than all reason. (Letter from Günsbach, Alsace, 1930s, p. 144 - 145)

Dear friend, both of us have been exceedingly blessed in our lives. Each of us, in his worries, his efforts, his experiences, has been allowed to receive the goodness of God. May we, as blessed people, become blessings for others and continue as blessings as long as God allows us to wander down here. (Letter from Lambaréné, 10 October 1950, p. 215)

When Schweitzer speaks of the "peace that surpasseth all understanding" (Letter of 27 July 1950, p. 212-213), I think this is the peace that comes to the human being who loves, who is guided by Augustine's principle that whatever is not done from love is not done as it should be done, and who can say of anything he has done that it was done "because that is what love told me to do". (As we have from the Apostle Paul: "Love is always patient, never impatient ... it is never rude or selfish ... it does not take offense, nor it is resentful or perverse ... it does not rejoice in sin but in the truth ... it is always willing to forgive, to trust, to hope, and to endure all things." That is a description of Job's love for God, but also of the merciful Samaritan's love for his neighbor.)

And, further, Schweitzer also believed that he had been called by that same spirit to show the connection between the religion of Jesus and "thought", which he believed he had done with the principle (doctrine, or, ethics) of Reverence for Life.

I am very interested ... about my religious feelings .... Jesus has simply kept me prisoner since my childhood. However, I do not see my work in maintaining religion as an enthusiasm that is given to some and not given to others; rather, I feel I have to blaze a trail from thought to religion.

It is my conviction that thinking leads to all profound truths of religion and that people become religious once they start thinking.

The ethics of reverence for life is nothing by Jesus' great commandment to love -- a commandment that is reached by thinking; religion and thinking meet in the mysticism of belonging to God through love. (Letter of 1931, p. 123)

Sometimes I am so deeply moved by the thought that I have found and can utter the philosophical expression for the ethics of Jesus' love in my doctrine of reverence for life, so that people can be led on the road to Jesus through true and profound thought. (Letter from Lambaréné, Palm Sunday 1930, p. 108)

The idea of spiritual solidarity with the world through reverence for life is the goal of everything I write and do. (Letter from Lambaréné, 15 October 1958, p. 282)

Albert Schweitzer was not an accepter of dogma -- he applied reason to all things (Even as a child he had questioned what he read and was told) -- but at the same time he was a deeply religious man who saw no contradiction in that, and who, as his letters show, was constantly thanking God for all the good things there were in his life. At the hospital the prayer he said (Schweitzer was a minister of the Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace) before common meals was "Thank the Lord for He is kind and His goodness is everlasting", and that was not mere babble of words in Schweitzer's life.

I know that I myself owe it to thought that I was able to retain my faith in religion. (Out of My Life and Thought, Epilogue, p. 240)

I perhaps have a tendency -- I do have a tendency -- to over-rationalize Schweitzer (maybe because his religious experience is utterly foreign to anything I have experienced) and to over-irrationalize Wittgenstein, making one the champion of reason and the other its enemy. To over-rationalize Schweitzer -- i.e. think of him solely as a man of thoroughgoing reason, as if he had been a follower of Socrates rather than of Jesus -- as if he had not been a man of very deep feeling both in religion and music (and religious music). Whether I over-irrationalize Wittgenstein, I don't know. He could be strongly anti-intellectual in some areas of thought. As Russell said of Wittgenstein, he "was a very singular man", and in my view of him Wittgenstein was the friend of logic (of language) but the enemy of philosophy. And he often was also over-confident about his ability to think about things for himself, relying only on his own genius -- "Who of us nowadays has any idea of what a Bach fugue really meant at the time in which it was composed?" is an example. Schweitzer, by contrast, was in all things scholarly: he always looked to learn whatever he could from others.

Certainly there was a difference in their views about the relationship between religion and philosophy. Where each placed the limits of philosophy (Neither was a metaphysician) ... and yet, Schweitzer was able to do so much more within those limits (within the limits of philosophy).

"Meaningless Proceeding"

From the very beginning [since my youth] I was convinced that all thought is really concerned with the great problem of how man can attain to spiritual union with infinite Being. (Indian Thought and its Development [1935], tr. Russell (1956), Preface, p. vi)

But isn't that the very notion that Schweitzer criticized years earlier in Civilization and Ethics (2nd ed. (London, 1929), tr. C.T. Campion, Chapter 20, p. 241) when he wrote that "the Essence of Being, the Absolute, the World-spirit, and all similar expressions denote nothing actual but something conceived in abstractions" and called entering "into a spiritual relation with an unreal creation of thought" a "meaningless proceeding"?

I don't at all understand this notion of Schweitzer's, "infinite Being". The human world of my experience has always seemed to me a hostile place, full of cages, ignorance and ugliness, in which life is at war with itself. What relationship can one form with that. But more to the point, I cannot conceive the world, lifeless and otherwise, as a unified whole; that notion is quite beyond my imagination, both native and grammatical, to picture. Schweitzer's expression "infinite Being" (i.e. the combination of words 'infinite Being') says nothing to me (i.e. is undefined language).

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