On Buber

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I also searched for the book the boy had referred to in his letter to Buber. The entire book is devoted to stories of Hasidic rabbis, towns and courts, and is written in an archaic and not easy-to-read style.

1. Lecture Martin Buber I and Thou

He was murdered in Auschwitz when he was all of nineteen. I wrote about my findings to the Yad Vashem Art Museum and asked whether they were interested in the drawings and perhaps had additional drawings by this boy in their collection. I did not receive a response. I was left with the story which I reveal here for the first time. I believe that the drawings that have been preserved in the archive for almost eighty years should be published in some way, both for the skill of the illustrations and the possibility that exposing them may lead to other works coming to light by this gifted young man whose life was tragically short.

Thanks to the Martin Buber Estate for permission to publish these items.

I and Thou

Thanks to Dr. In March , at 60 years of age, he left Germany for Jerusalem and a professorship at the Hebrew University. He had planned to return before too long, but six months later, Kristallnacht changed his mind. Born in Vienna in , Buber seemed fated for Jewish-intellectual fame. His grandfather had been a rabbinic scholar, and his family tree stretched back through centuries of noted Jewish figures.

Despite this crisis, the young Buber drifted back toward the Judaism of his birth. Through his teens — at the universities of Vienna, Leipzig and Berlin — his scholarly interests moved away from art history and toward religious mysticism. Over the next few years, Buber published Yiddish Hasidic folktales in his native German tongue that proved wildly popular with readers. It was midway through the First World War, already well-established as an author, that Buber began working on his most famous and influential work, Ich und Du — rendered in English as I and Thou.

He finished a first draft in , and published the final version in Its brevity and literary passion has seen it join that small club of philosophical texts that the general reading public are capable of enjoying. This same literary quality is often what causes the book to be dismissed by academic philosophers for being loose, unsystematic, overly subjective.

The basic argument of I and Thou goes like this: human existence is fundamentally interpersonal.

Martin Buber | German religious philosopher | hiqukycona.tk

Human beings are not isolated, free-floating objects, but subjects existing in perpetual, multiple, shifting relationships with other people, the world, and ultimately God. For Buber, the act of speech embodied the deep-set interrelatedness of human beings. I and Thou argues that within this elementally networked reality there are two basic modes of existence: the I-It, and the I-Thou. Instead, we engage with a web of distinct and isolated qualities notable for how they are useful to us. Buber regarded this kind of self-centred outlook — typified, in his view, by proto-existentialists such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche — as a grave error.

By contrast, in the I-Thou relationship, rather than simply experiencing another, we encounter them. The I-Thou stance has a purity and an intimacy, and is inherently reciprocal. In relation to others, he argued, we can step into an intersubjective space where two people coexist in and co-contribute to what he called the Between. In this Between lurks the vital, nourishing experience of human life, the real sacred stuff of existence.

In any other meeting, there is constant vacillation; even our most treasured Thou occasionally regresses to an It, even if for only a few moments. The quiet tragedy of this, of the impermanence of all true relation, is offset for Buber by the eternal Thou, a sort of Platonic form of encounter. God always escapes the objectifying impulse of the I-It stance, says Buber.

He always exists as a unity of being in our minds. And every time we access the I-Thou at the human level, we chip a tiny shard off the shoulder of the towering marble statue of divine encounter. It is necessary and unavoidable that in life we treat certain things as Its.

This is how we change a lightbulb, follow a recipe, collect data or compose a mathematical proof. But he who lives with It alone is not a man. We will solve our woes, he argued, by moving both our inner lives and our social structures away from the I-It and toward the I-Thou. Shifting reality toward something we encounter , not just experience, might eventually allow us to concentrate our soul to the point that we witness the truth of that magnificent, trite notion: God is love.

That all meaningful experience requires tapping into a divine realm will trigger a severe frown in any nonbeliever. This wisdom goes beyond Hasidic Judaism. No original sin can prohibit man from being able to turn to God. However, Buber is not an unqualified voluntarist.

As in his political essays, he describes himself as a realistic meliorist.

One cannot simply will redemption. Man hallows creation by being himself and working in his own sphere. There is no need to be other, or to reach beyond the human. The legends and anecdotes of the historic zaddikim Hasidic spiritual and community leaders that Buber recorded depict persons who exemplify the hallowing of the everyday through the dedication of the whole person.

If hallowing is successful, the everyday is the religious, and there is no split between the political, social or religious spheres.

I and Thou

Some commentators, such as Paul Mendes-Flohr and Maurice Friedman, view this as a turn away from his earlier preoccupation with mysticism in texts such as Ecstatic Confessions and Daniel: Dialogues on Realization Drawing on Hasidic thought, he argues that creation is not an obstacle on the way to God, but the way itself. Principles require acting in a prescribed way, but the uniqueness of each situation and encounter requires each to be approached anew. He could not blindly accept laws but felt compelled to ask continually if a particular law was addressing him in his particular situation.

While rejecting the universality of particular laws, this expresses a meta-principle of dialogical readiness. In general Buber had little historical or scholarly interest in Hasidism. He took Hasidism to be less a historical movement than a paradigmatic mode of communal renewal and was engaged by the dynamic meaning of the anecdotes and the actions they pointed to. However, God can be known only in his relation to man, not apart from it. Thus, it is not accurate to say that God changes throughout the texts, but that the theophany, the human experience of God, changes.

Consequently, Buber characterizes his approach as tradition criticism, which emphasizes experiential truth and uncovers historical themes, in contrast to source criticism, which seeks to verify the accuracy of texts. Rather than smoothing over difficult or unclear passages, he preferred to leave them rough. One important method was to identify keywords Leitworte and study the linguistic relationship between the parts of the text, uncovering the repetition of word stems and same or similar sounding words.

Buber also tried to ward against Platonizing tendencies by shifting from static and impersonal terms to active and personal terms. Buber made two important distinctions between forms of faith in his religious studies. In the prophetic attitude one draws oneself together so that one can contribute to history, but in the apocalyptic attitude one fatalistically resigns oneself. While he had great respect for Jesus as a man, Buber did not believe that Jesus took himself to be divine. Buber accuses Paul and John of transforming myth, which is historically and biographically situated, into gnosis, and replacing faith as trust and openness to encounter with faith in an image.

The primary goal of history is genuine community, which is characterized by an inner disposition toward a life in common. Buber critiques collectivization for creating groups by atomizing individuals and cutting them off from one another. Genuine community, in contrast, is a group bound by common experiences with the disposition and persistent readiness to enter into relation with any other member, each of whom is confirmed as a differentiated being. He argues that this is best achieved in village communes such as the Israeli kibbutzim. The political principle, exemplified in the socialism of Marx and Lenin, tends towards centralization of power, sacrificing society for the government in the service of an abstract, universal utopianism.

In contrast, influenced by his close friend, anarchist Gustav Landauer, Buber postulates a social principle in which the government serves to promote community. Rather than ever-increasing centralization, he argues in favor of federalism and the maximum decentralization compatible with given social conditions, which would be an ever-shifting demarcation line of freedom. Seeking to retrieve a positive notion of utopianism, Buber characterizes genuine utopian socialism as the ongoing realization of the latent potential for community in a concrete place.

Rather than seeking to impose an abstract ideal, he argues that genuine community grows organically out of the topical and temporal needs of a given situation and people. Rejecting economic determinism for voluntarism, he insists that socialism is possible to the extent that people will a revitalization of communal life.

Similarly, his Zionism is not based on the notion of a final state of redemption but an immediately attainable goal to be worked for. This shifts the notion of utopian socialism from idealization to actualization and equality. Despite his support of the communal life of the kibbutzim, Buber decried European methods of colonization and argued that the kibbutzim would only be genuine communities if they were not closed off from the world. Unlike nationalism, which sees the nation as an end in itself, he hoped Israel would be more than a nation and would usher in a new mode of being.

The settlers must learn to live with Arabs in a vital peace, not merely next to them in a pseudo-peace that he feared was just a prelude to war. As time went on, Buber became increasingly critical of Israel, stating that he feared a victory for the Jews over the Arabs would mean a defeat for Zionism. Politics inserts itself into every aspect of life, breeding mistrust. When everything becomes politicized, imagined conflict disguises itself as real, tragic conflict. Buber viewed Ben-Gurion as representative of this politicizing tendency.

Nevertheless, Buber remained optimistic, believing that the greater the crisis the greater the possibility for an elemental reversal and rebirth of the individual and society. He argued that violence does not lead to freedom or rebirth but only renewed decline, and deplored revolutions whose means were not in alignment with their end. Afraid that capital punishment would only create martyrs and stymie dialogue, he protested the sentencing of both Jewish and Arab militants and called the execution of Nazi Adolf Eichmann a grave mistake.

However, he insisted that he was not a pacifist and that, sometimes, just wars must be fought. In the face of total loss of rights, mass murder and forced oblivion, no such testimony was possible and satyagraha was ineffective see Pointing the Way and The Letters of Martin Buber: A Life of Dialogue.


Against the progressive tone of the conference, Buber argued that the opposite of compulsion and discipline is communion, not freedom. The student is neither entirely active, so that the educator can merely free his or her creative powers, nor is the student purely passive, so that the educator merely pours in content.

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Rather, in their encounter, the educative forces of the instructor meet the released instinct of the student. The possibility for such communion rests on mutual trust. The student trusts in the educator, while the educator trusts that the student will take the opportunity to fully develop herself. In contrast to the propagandist, the true educator influences but does not interfere.

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  • This is not a desire to change the other, but rather to let what is right take seed and grow in an appropriate form. Hence they have a dialogical relationship, but not one of equal reciprocity. If the instructor is to do the job it cannot be a relationship between equals. Buber explains that one cannot prepare students for every situation, but one can guide them to a general understanding of their position and then prepare them to confront every situation with courage and maturity.

    This is character or whole person education. One educates for courage by nourishing trust through the trustworthiness of the educator. Hence the presence and character of the educator is more important than the content of what is actually taught. Buber acknowledges that teachers face a tension between acting spontaneously and acting with intention. They cannot plan for dialogue or trust, but they can strive to leave themselves open for them.

    This entails setting groups with different world-views before each other and educating, not for tolerance, but for solidarity. Buber argues that how one believes is more important than what one believes. Teachers must develop their students to ask themselves on what their world-view stands, and what they are doing with it.

    Sarah Scott Email: scots newschool. Martin Buber — Martin Buber was a prominent twentieth century philosopher, religious thinker, political activist and educator. Philosophical Anthropology a. Religious Writings a. Hasidic Judaism In his book Eclipse of God , Martin Buber explains that philosophy usually begins with a wrong set of premises: that an isolated, inquiring mind experiences a separate, exterior world, and that the absolute is found in universals. References and Further Reading a.

    Philosophic Interrogations. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Questions by more than 50 major thinkers and Buber's responses. Martin Buber Werkausgabe. Nahum N. Glatzer and Paul Mendes-Flohr. Richard and Clara Winston and Harry Zohn. Syracuse, N. The Martin Buber Reader. Asher Biemann. New York: Macmillan, Paul A. Schilpp and Maurice Friedman.


    La Salle, I. Vol I: Schriften zur Philosophie. Vol 2: Schriften zur Bible. Comprehensive collection more than four thousand pages long , edited by Buber. Mythology Tales of Rabbi Nachman. Maurice Friedman. Amherst, N. The Legend of the Baal-Shem. London: Routledge, New York: Schocken Books,