Out of My Life and Thought (1933)
by Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
This book has sat on our shelves for more than 20 years, and I have only just read it. Perhaps I looked into it before, but was uninterested. Now I find it one of the very few books I can relate almost in its entirety directly to my memetic framework.
Not that I agree with every aspect of Schweitzer’s thought. But he had a clarity of expression, and a history-based approach to the nature of ideas, that fits well with my own modes.
I find it interesting that, with his religious training and vocation, his approach (or at least expression) to ethics is based so little on religious ideas, but is really a practical consequence of his ideas about the world. I think his concept of Reverence for Life could be expressed convincingly in terms of the four realms, and the practical consequences of living with the characteristics of all of them, without need to invoke any more ‘spiritual’ authority.
I found his description of the research into the historical Jesus and Paul interesting and objective, compared with the sort of unthinking or self-serving commentary usually heard from preachers. It appears that his works might collect the memes that these men had from their cultures, and their new associations that became the memes of certain parts of later Christianity.
Similarly his approach to the philosophy of civilization and the history of philosophy appears to be directed in such a way that they might provide useful collections of memes for constructing a model of memetic evolution. In addition, he extols the natural sciences for grounding philosophy.
The postscript (by Skillings) is merely descriptive of Schweitzer’s external life from 1932 to 1949. Its only redeeming quality is the collection of comments by people who met Schweitzer in this period, and their impressions of his personality, which of course is an expression of his life and thought.