[An essay on the topicality and problem complex. Ethics of the Reverence for Life]

Judith Benz-Schwarzburg
ALTEX 2008, 25 (1): 63-6
Albert Schweitzer developed an egalitarian biocentrism which follows the maxim "I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live". Following Schweitzer's idea of the Reverence for Life obviously leads to ethical dilemmas - as for example in the case of animal experimentation. In many situations we cannot but kill or harm, even if we don't want to, and must live at the cost of other living beings. How can the Reverence for Life stand up to that? Overcoming ethical dilemmas often means agreeing to compromises, which often leave us behind in discomfort. This discomfort and its meaning for Schweitzer's ethical concept can be illustrated by means of an example. Imagine two biologists, both conducting animal experiments that seem ethically justified and necessary to them. Nevertheless they can hold very different positions concerning their action. In some respect Schweitzer's ideas may be problematic and fairly radical. But they are also interesting and topical in so far as they don't let us get away easily after the decision-making process in an ethical dilemma. His theory opens up for the idea of compensation and development of alternative methods arising from what he calls a unique solidarity between human and non-human animals.

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