In the 1923 preface to the second part of his book on the philosophy of civilization, Schweitzer wrote that he wanted to be a “pioneer of a new Renaissance” and “throw faith in a new humanity like a burning torch into our dark times.” Readers can identify with Schweitzer’s independence in disregarding advice of family and friends to give up material security for humanitarian service.
Concerns for human rights, for responsibility for the environment, for political freedom, and for global interdependence fit appropriately into Schweitzer’s view of a new Renaissance, wherein humankind returns to a “civilization that is determined by humanism.” Modern readers can relate to his philosophy of respect for all life. According to Schweitzer, this concept is elemental because it involves questions about the relationship of humanity to the universe, about the meaning of life, and about the nature of goodness. Schweitzer deplored forces that seek the greatest possible uniformity and that rob people of confidence in their own thinking. To Schweitzer, the prodigious developments in knowledge and new discoveries have caused people to doubt their own thinking and to become comfortable in accepting authoritarian truth and to stop searching for truth. Schweitzer placed his confidence in rational thinking, as it would lead to truth. Schweitzer’s autobiography serves as an educational guide and source of hope for modern readers who question the relationship of ethical and moral standards in a world rapidly changing because of scientific, technological, and political power.