Talk:Albert Schweitzer

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An Actual Schweitzer Question[edit]

Ignoring the tedious and pointless debate about spurious racist remarks thrown out over and over again by modern PC liberals/ hero-hating iconoclasts, I have an actual question about Schweitzer's philosophy, whose answer from anyone who might happen to have any insight would be much appreciated. TEDIOUS AND BORING TO YOU!!!!!! HOW ARROGANT!!!!!

I have read his autobiography and some other sources/quotes on the Reverence for Life philosophy. It seems simple enough - life is good, what helps it is good, what hinders it is evil. But I think here there are important distinctions to be made. Life, to Schweitzer, seems to be good in itself, but the conditions of life seem to Schweitzer evil. This to me seems a key part of his program, and it can be understood when he discusses a concrete example - having to choose the life of the fishes or of a bird he owns, he makes (what is to him) the agonizing decision to end the fishes' lives to prolong the bird's. So it's evident that he recognizes that the life system, the conditions of life - that it must needs feed on other life to survive, that it must survive only at the expense of other life - is itself an evil, and is the very evil which someone adopting a policy of reverence for life would be fighting - not just particular hindrances to life but the inherent hindrance that are the conditions of the life system itself. This ends up being something kinda sorta like Schopenhauer's view on the will to live being the source of evil, only, crucially, it absolves the living being and its will to live (Schweitzer made a point of distinguishing his philosophy from Schopenhauer's by saying his was life-affirming while Schop's was life-denying), but says that nature itself, the life system itself, the conditions under which living things are made to exist, is evil, and is the very evil against which one must everywhere fight. My question then is whether or not Schweitzer ever explicitly explained all that latter part (ie, did he ever call the nature system, the life system itself, evil), or only left it implied. Because it makes perfect sense and in fact it seems necessary for his philosophy to remain coherent. I kind of suspect he never went further than implying all this, and perhaps was thinking of it when he wrote things such "Life is mysterious and full of suffering." But it would be nice if he were somewhere more explicit about it. I see his philosophy as a beautiful correction of Schopenhauer in a way, but to really be perfect it would need to correctly and explicitly identify an enemy and a source of the great evil and suffering of the world. It wouldn't even need to get into the thorny issue of the source of the source of evil, I believe it would be enough just to identify it (but then Schweitzer's philosophy always seemed independent of any theology, so there's no problem, necessarily, if he were to conclude that God/ the universe must be responsible for the evil, or even be inherently evil themselves). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:43, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

Stance on racial relations[edit]

The following passage, purportedly from the first edition of Schweitzer's "African Notebook", may be found here and there on the web. I have been trying to validate its authenticity, and the wonderful Snopes people have made an interesting attempt:

The investigator actually located a 1939 English edition of the book in the UCLA library, in which he failed to find this passage after a rather hurried skim. He says it would be worth checking the original GERMAN edition. Anyone?

""I have given my life to try to alleviate the sufferings of Africa. There is something that all white men who have lived here like I must learn and know: that these individuals are a sub-race. They have neither the intellectual, mental, or emotional abilities to equate or to share equally with white men in any function of our civilization. I have given my life to try to bring them the advantages which our civilization must offer, but I have become well aware that we must retain this status: the superior and they the inferior. For whenever a white man seeks to live among them as their equals they will either destroy him or devour him. And they will destroy all of his work. Let white men from anywhere in the world, who would come to Africa, remember that you must continually retain this status; you the master and they the inferior like children that you would help or teach. Never fraternize with them as equals. Never accept them as your social equals or they will devour you. They will destroy you." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:53, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

The title of the original book in German is Afrikanische Geschichten (1938, Hamburg and Leipzig) (and the first English edition was London 1938, NY 1939) and I have added it to the Bibliography, but have no access to it. But the (extremely doubtful) remark is attributed to a time not long before his death, which does not square with this source in any case. A categorical denial that Schweitzer wrote this "quotation" in any shape or form is made by Dr Lachlan Forrow, President of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (USA), here [1]. Eebahgum (talk) 19:40, 28 May 2008 (UTC)
That statement could come from almost anyone who works or does business in Black Africa. -- (talk) 15:06, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
I could not find this quotation in the online copy of the book: ...but I have found similar quotation in another book written by Albert Schweitzer:
"With regard to the negroes, then, I have coined the formula: "I am your brother, it is true, but your elder brother."… Not long ago the termites, or white ants, got into a box which stood on our verandah. I emptied the box and broke it up, and gave the pieces to the negro who had been helping me. " Look," I said to him, " the ants have got into it; you mustn't put the wood with the rest of the firewood or the ants will get into the frame - work of the hospital building. Go down to the river and throw it into the water. Do you understand? " " Yes, yes, you need not worry." It was late in the day, and being too tired to go down the hill again, I was inclined to break my general rule and trust a black one who was in fact on the whole intelligent and handy. But about ten o'clock I felt so uneasy that I took the lantern and went down to the hospital. There was the wood with the ants in it lying with the rest of the firewood. To save himself the trouble of going the twenty yards down to the river the negro had endangered all my buildings!"
source: "On The Edge Of The Primeval Forest," pages 131-135, Quinacrine (talk) 10:16, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

I partly reverted the edit by, since it violates the NPOV ("Sadly, this has been proven to be true; every area where Whites have left, has invariably degenerated to savagery again. This is not racist ranting, but the honest truth. Look at South Africa during apartheid and then look at the same country now; look at Rhodesia under the whites and how nobody starved, not Whites or native Africans. Now, under Native African misrule, the whole nation might well starve."). I left part of's quotation since it illustrates a maybe little-known side of Albert Schweitzer. From a quick google on "Albert Schweitzer" and racism it seems probable that Schweitzer actually made a statement like this. Nevertheless, it would be great if someone ( could add the corresponding citation. To give a more balanced picture of Albert Schweitzer I added the other quotation which I found on (Section 5). Maybe someone who has access to the book could check and extend (publisher, year) the given citation? Ringler

I removed the remainder of the quote discussed above, which called Africans an "inferior race", said that Whites must be the Masters, and that Africans must not be treated as equals. Despite being frequently repeated in some quarters, this quote is a fabrication. I've read almost everything Schweitzer wrote that has been translated into English, and nothing remotely like it appears in print. To accomodate the removal of the fabricated quote and to provide some context, I altered the first sentence of the remaining paragraph. I also added a short paragraph discussing what some view as Schweitzer's paternalistic attitude. [This is my first Wikipedia entry, so forgive me if my changes to someone else's entry are a breach of etiquette.]
The anonymous editor has persisted in adding that material every few weeks. Frequently it is interesting to check out these anonymous people and see what other edits they have made. It quickly becomes obvious that some people have a big ax to grind. P0M 22:57, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
@ Unknow editor. I don't see why you call it a "fabrication", it's just unsourced. You are of course right that those inserting it have to give the correct source for it. -- (talk) 14:39, 15 March 2012 (UTC)

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Curate or pastorate?[edit]

Re: timeline section: Calvinists (Reformed) do not have "curates." he was either an assistant or associate pastor when at strausburg. --—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Kenneth claus (talkcontribs) . 16 April, 2006

It is known that in French and English both words “vicar” and “curate” have an opposite signification: “vicaire” means “curate” and “curé” means “vicar”. Then Albert Schweitzer was not a reformed but a Lutheran “pasteur” and I know that among the Lutherans, at least in Alsace, there are “vicaires”. Therefore it is correct to say that Schweitzer had been a “curate”. Gustave G. 02:23, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

Schweitzer : German or French ?[edit]

The article shouldn’t mention Schweitzer as a German, since his passport was French. But the best is to make him an Alsatian. Like many people of this region in this time, Schweitzer tried in fact to find a way beetween France and Germany. Moreover this quite Alsatian position on nationality brought him to consider himself as a citizen of the world. So Alsace may be considered as his real fatherland.

To see how tangled the problem is :

Schweitzer was born a German in 1875. The Alsace region (French since Louis XIV) had just been taken by Bismarck in 1870 after German-French war. Schweitzer went to the German school, but he spoke French at home, and moved to Paris in 1893 to study philosophy and music. After that he came back to German Alsace, then to proper Germany. When Alsace re-became French in 1918, his nationality turned to French. He married a German person, but corresponded with her in French. Then Schweitzer established his hospital in a French colony, wrote books in German and receved Nobel price as a Frenchman. Apart from that, his cousin Anne-Marie Schweitzer was also the mother of Jean-Paul Sartre !

His biography made him one of this person beetween two worlds... but it seems he took advantage of it.

See this page from the Fondation Schweitzer in Lambaréné to consider the nationality problem

Both ... but officially German during 43 years (1875-1918) and French during 47 years (1918-1965).... so the best way to respect his origin and culture is to put "Alsacian"
Paris75000 19:27, 27 January 2007 (UTC)
There is a difference between citizenship and ethnic nationality. Someone may be a French citizen, but at the same time of German ethnicity. As his name proves (and his writings), he was an ethnic German (German people), so the article should mention him as a German. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:07, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
Of course the article must take account of Schweitzer's Alsace/Elsass identity, his German national birth, his French nationality later, and should also recognise his true character as above all a citizen of the world. Also that his wife was the daughter of a German Jewish pan-Germanist Germanistik scholar (Harry Bresslau whom the French drove out of his Strasbourg teaching post). In CATEGORIES the anti-nuclear activist label needs to be French, because Schweitzer had long become French by nationality (whatever his cultural origins) by the time nuclear bombs were invented and first used. When he was an anti-nuclear activist, he was already legally French. The real question is not about Schweitzer himself, but whether these category tags refer to ethnicity, cultural origin or legal nationality. I'll ask an admin. Eebahgum (talk) 21:50, 27 May 2008 (UTC)
I don't think there's any particular policy that's relevant here. It is certainly true that ethnic/national labelling is often a problem. I've seen this quite often at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion. Do categories refer to legal nationality, self-identity, cultural origin, or what exactly? I think examples can be found of all of these. Clearly self-identity is the most readily verified. If Schweizer said he was an Alsatian, that's what he was. If he said he was a citizen of the world, giving undue prominence to legal nationality would be odd. I looked at the French and German articles and they seem to avoid making clear-cut claims about Schweizer's identity in the text and are generous with their categorisations. This route has the advantage of being readily sourceable and least likely to provoke reasonable dissent. The issue of chronology is a thorny one, but the point about him being a French or Alsatian anti-nuclear activist rather than a German one seems reasonable to me. The category system is less than ideal and will presumably be replaced by something better in time to come. I would not be too concerned about getting the categorisation perfect as the system is really not good enough in its present state to achieve that in complex cases such as this. The text is really what matters to readers. Hope this helps, Angus McLellan (Talk) 18:39, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Please note that though Albert Schweitzer was born as a German citizen, his parents had French citizenship before 1871, and they had that former (pre-1871) French citizenship reinstated in 1918 when becoming again French citizens. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:53, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Many doubtful speculations here. Fact is, that Albert Schweizer was a born in Kayserberg, Germany as a german citizen and grew up in Gunsbach, Germany. His parents were of german ancestry, hence the name "Schweizer", a german word, not a french one. His first language was the Alsatian dialect, a local variety of Alemannic, which is a german dialect. In school he spoke standard German (High German), but within his family and privately he also spoke french. In 1912 he married the german Helene Bresslau, daughter of Harry Breslau, a german historian and diplomat. In 1913 they went to Lambaréné in west central Africa to build a hospital in the jungle. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I., Albert and Helene Schweizer were put in house detention by the french army because they were germans. In 1917 the couple was arrested and displaced to France, where they were interned until July 1918. After the war, his homeland in Alsace fell to the French Republic and he was forced to take the french citizenship. But even in his later life there isn't a single hint that Albert Schweizer ever considered himself as beeing french. In 1924 he had gathered enough financial resources that allowed him to go back to Lambaréné again. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:16, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

Note also that the article says that Anne-Marie was the grand-neice of Albert Schweitzer. According to the Wikipedia article on Jean-Paul Sartre, she was his first cousin. This is repeated on another web page (, however this is not sufficient authority for me to edit this article. I invite someone with appropriate scholarly credentials to rectify this anomaly within Wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:07, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

This article is ridiculously oriented towards a "Schweitzer = German" prejudice that has absolutely no sense. Schweitzer was not German, even his name is not German, it is Alsacian. Schweitzer's parents were French, and he was only born in Germany by accident, as Kaysersberg is a French town in Alsace, that was occupied by Germany between 1871 and 1918. Schweitzer spoke French at home, he lived in France before leaving for Lambaréné (at the time a French colony), and perhaps more importantly he wrote in French. As he and his family were victims of German occupation before 1st World War, saying he is "German—and later French" is kind of an insult to his memory, his life and identity. And kind of a ridiculous claim that does not help Wikipedia to appear serious. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:32, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Problem with sentence(s)[edit]

The first two sentences under "Theology" read thusly:

"As a young theologian he published The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906), by which he gained a great reputation. He later on met Vlad Zakharchenko and they wrote this book, he interpreted the life of Jesus in the light of Jesus' own eschatological convictions."

That second sentence is surely missing some content. From what I can tell, the name of the book he wrote with Zakharchenko, and some connecting words.

Probably a sloppy edit at some point cut them out.

I can't make any repair myself, knowing nothing on the topic. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will assist here. Thanks 19:22, 19 August 2007 (UTC)BLenz

This entry needs extensive revision. It should be reformated, proofread and fact checked for accuracy.

EX. The first sentence reads: "He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, from 1871 to 1918 in the German Empire." This sentence is awkward, it implies that he was born between 1871-1918. It should probably read: "...was born in 1871 in Kaysersberg, in the ( former ) German (province?) of Alsace-Lorraine..

It is also excessively wordy. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to pare this article down ? I know nothing about this guy, but I do know that this wiki entry does him little justice and is extremely confusing to read. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Acker20 (talkcontribs) 08:47, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Re the above statement - I feel some responsibility and feel much sympathy, having made fairly major changes to this article between 5 May and 28 May 2008. I was then attempting to reform an article which had very little musical content (Bach or organs), some fairly woolly philosophical material, nothing about medicine, and a long essay about racism. I attempted to correct that balance by arranging sections on each aspect, and adding work on his education, music, recordings, medicine, a brief statement about philosophy worked closely from the preface to the Dale Lectures (distinct from the longer 'implications' section which was already there), etc. The piece on theology was added by another editor. I would gladly see the whole thing tightened up, but so long as the page is treated as a discussion forum for vapourings about Nietzsche, nitpicking about whether Elsass/Alsace is French or German, ping-pong about racism, and everyone adding their favourite quote, that isn't going to happen. Eebahgum (talk) 17:45, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

Dead link[edit]

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The discussion about racial attitudes lacks objectivity[edit]

The problem with this section is that it presumes that regarding certain African nations unfit for decolonization makes someone a racist. This is a fashionable belief but it is certainly not without dispute, intellectual or otherwise. It is perfectly consistent that a person believe that colonization confers a benefit on the colonized and not in turn believe the colonized are inherently inferior. Those who do so believe would assert that some civilizations are more advanced than others and that a paternal attitude towards the less advanced is appropriate. Whether one agrees with this point of view is irrelevant. The tone of this section takes the proposition that colonialism is uniformly racist and insupportable as a given. This is not objective, and thus inappropriate for this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by JohnDavidBurgess (talkcontribs) 21:57, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

I have swapped around the sections on 'Medicine' and 'Stance on racial relations' (renamed as 'Controversy in Africa') for a better chronology in the article. I renamed the section so that the title fits all of the content. The James Cameron reference cited by me gives some insight over the points JohnDavidBurgess makes above. Philip Cross (talk) 20:31, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Linking dates[edit]

Wikipedia:Only make links that are relevant to the context#Dates says:

Chronological items—such as days, years, decades and centuries—should generally not be linked unless they are demonstrably likely to deepen readers' understanding of the topic .... Note that dates should no longer be linked for the purpose of autoformatting, even though such links were previously considered desirable.

Can anyone demonstrate how linking 14 January, 4 September, 1875, and 1965 gives us a deeper understanding of Albert Schweitzer? -- JackofOz (talk) 21:09, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Mostly he played the classics, but I guess those were his blue numbers....? Eebahgum (talk) 23:38, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

How sad that interest in Schweitzer should be so dominated by attitudes to race! And somewhat ironic in that, in his NT studies, his "eschatology" platform amounted to insistence that you must view your subject as a figure of their own time - not yours. I was tempted to amend the line which says that the failure of the world to end in that generation rules out the literal accuracy of the gospels (my wording). Surely what it rules out is the accuracy of the prophecies, in the most basic sense? The article sounds as though it means: their accuracy as reporting, rather than as revelation. If the former, we can't be sure the words were spoken, so our conclusion is circular, not to say a walk on shifting sands. But I decided those sands are quicksands, and didn't edit.

Rogersansom (talk) 07:20, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

Details of the publication dates of ed. of The Quest of the Historical Jesus appear to be incorrect. Although the first English ed. was published in 1910, the second was published in 1911 (reprinted many times from 1922-1952). The third ed, with a new introduction was published in 1954 by A & C Black (reprinted from 1954-73). I know of no ed. published in 2001. (talk) 11:58, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

The 2001 edition is edited by John Bowden and published by Fortress Press. It incorporates into the English version changes made by Schweitzer, presumably in the 3d ed., and also revises the W. Montgomery translation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:11, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

Sentence construction error[edit]

"He was born in Kaysersberg in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, from 1871 to 1918 in the German Empire."

That would have been a childbirth of record-breaking duration! I suspect it should read "He was born and lived in ... ", or something similar.WHPratt (talk) 19:12, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

That's better, now. WHPratt (talk) 04:26, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Star Trek reference, at line 205, is out of place in this article[edit]

The taking of the name "Schweitzer" by a fictional doctor in a Star Trek episode is irrelevant to an article about Albert Schweitzer. Firstly, it is not established that this name was intended to be associated with A.S.; and even if it were it adds nothing of value to an article describing A.S. I hope others will agree with me and someone will remove this list item. --Greenmaven (talk) 22:45, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

I removed it. I also removed Indiana Jones and consorts, but they were put back (maybe I could have been clearer in my edit summary), but I personally don't see the added value of some minor (supporting) fictional portrayals of Schweitzer. But I wouldn't mind the whole section being removed and only mentioning films about his (actual) life, in stead of people who played him. Joost 99 (talk) 09:32, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Hi, sorry that was me who put the other TV references back in, I also created this portrayals section about 2 years ago simlpy because I felt for younger people, students, etc., the films or TV shows might be a simple and accessible 'entry point' into Schweitzer's work. Particulary the Young Indiana Jones series was designed with an educational emphasis in mind, and the episode featuring Schweitzer covers who he is, broadly what his philosophies were about, and his treatment in WW I, in an accessible fashion, he is definitely the "star" of that episode, and it might led people to want to find out more about him. But I'm definitely not tied to it in any way, and if you feel it should be removed, I definitely will not restore it, or get into some kind of edit war. I just like the idea of creating a link from this article to readily accessible materials for teenages, etc. Damiantgordon (talk) 11:05, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
No sorry needed. I didn't know the Young Indiana Jones was so educational :-) With removing the section I just meant the actors, not the films themselves, I agree they are a good entry point. Maybe just changing the order, first naming the film/TV-series then the actor if you would agree. By the way, in the article on the Voyagers! which also gives a summary of the episodes, I couldn't find any mention of Albert Schweitzer. Should that one be dropped? Joost 99 (talk) 20:29, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Cool, definitely the Voyagers episode was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it, so will remove. Young Indy, yeah, it was designed to be educational ( -- the TV series, not the movies ;-) I'll reorder the article now, thanks Damiantgordon (talk) 20:39, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Nice. That was what I meant. I just removed the word "In" so that it is an easier read. I might rent Young Indiana one day and learn something... Joost 99 (talk) 21:48, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Some of the best bits:
Damiantgordon (talk) 22:06, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

..another funny sentence...[edit]

in the section "Medicine" I found "By concerts and other fund-raising he was ready to equip a small hospital".
Was maybe meant "Through...he was able to...."?
I'm really puzzled....has anyone got a better idea?--Dia^ (talk) 18:39, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

The sentence "The Nobel Peace Prize of 1952 was awarded to Dr Albert Schweitzer. His "The Problem of Peace" lecture is considered one of the best speeches ever given" suggests that "The Problem of Peace" is teh title of the speech made when collecting the Nobel Prize, which is not correct. Btw, is The Problem of Peace available as a document? Many thanks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:42, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Strange sentence[edit]

"Schweitzer absolved the one year compulsory military service in 1894".

Does this mean he was excused from military service, or that he actually undertook it? -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 02:26, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

he served it say all the RS. Rjensen (talk) 02:52, 5 March 2013 (UTC)


What source is there for the Unitarian categories? Nothing in the article actually says that. There's some emanationist language that could be personally interpreted into certain forms of Unitarianism, but nothing actually claiming unitarianism. Ian.thomson (talk) 16:00, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

Looking into it, most of the sources labeling Schweitzer are by and for Unitarian Universalists, and mostly just discuss friendship with Unitarians. However, The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief (not by and for UUs but atheists) says that he did join a Unitarian Universalist organization. Ian.thomson (talk) 22:58, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Albert Schweitzer/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

It is good that the article has a picture, references, and info well organized with subheadings. However, an infobox would be helpful and more links would be helpful. After these changes, peer review is suggested. Green caterpillar 20:14, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Last edited at 20:14, 9 September 2006 (UTC). Substituted at 07:05, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

N.T. Wright[edit]

I removed a stray reference to a work of NT Wright from the section on The Quest for The Historical Jesus. Wright does pick up Schweitzer's strand of eschatology, but the cite only includes an 'ibid.' and it was the only mention to Wright anywhere in the article. Wright coined the term "third quest" for Jesus (with Schweitzer's being the first), so there's plenty of discussion to be had for citation if someone would like to add it back. :) (talk) 02:42, 13 July 2016 (UTC)