I and Thou: Martin Buber: japancarnews.info: Books
Martin Buber's most influential philosophic work, I and Thou (), The “I- Thou” relation is the pure encounter of one whole. According to Buber, human beings may adopt two attitudes toward the world: I- Thou or I-It. I-Thou is a relation of subject-to-subject, while I-It is a relation of. I meet you as you are, and you meet me as who I am. In the I-Thou relationship, what is key is how I am with you in my own heart and mind.
Dialogue with spirit is the most difficult to explicate because Buber uses several different images for it. Because of this, I and Thou was widely embraced by Protestant theologians, who also held the notion that no intermediary was necessary for religious knowledge.
Spiritual address is that which calls us to transcend our present state of being through creative action. The eternal form can either be an image of the self one feels called to become or some object or deed that one feels called to bring into the world. The first, mentioned by Walter Kaufmann in the introduction to his translation of I and Thou, is that the language is overly obscure and romantic, so that there is a risk that the reader will be aesthetically swept along into thinking the text is more profound than it actually is.
Buber acknowledges that the text was written in a state of inspiration. For this reason it is especially important to also read his later essays, which are more clearly written and rigorously argued. In his response Buber explains that he is concerned to avoid internal contradiction and welcomes criticism.
However, he acknowledges that his intention was not to create an objective philosophic system but to communicate an experience. His point is rather to investigate what it is to be a person and what modes of activity further the development of the person. It gives us all scientific knowledge and is indispensable for life. Primal distance sets up the possibility of these two basic word pairs, and the between Zwischen emerges out of them.
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Animals respond to the other only as embedded within their own experience, but even when faced with an enemy, man is capable of seeing his enemy as a being with similar emotions and motivations. Buber argues that every stage of the spirit, however primal, wishes to form and express itself. Form assumes communication with an interlocutor who will recognize and share in the form one has made. Distance and relation mutually correspond because in order for the world to be grasped as a whole by a person, it must be distanced and independent from him and yet also include him, and his attitude, perception, and relation to it.
Relation presupposes distance, but distance can occur without genuine relation. Buber explains that distance is the universal situation of our existence; relation is personal becoming in the situation.
Relation presupposes a genuine other and only man sees the other as other. This other withstands and confirms the self and hence meets our primal instinct for relation. Just as we have the instinct to name, differentiate, and make independent a lasting and substantial world, we also have the instinct to relate to what we have made independent. Only man truly relates, and when we move away from relation we give up our specifically human status. Buber argues that, while animals sometimes turn to humans in a declaring or announcing mode, they do not need to be told that they are what they are and do not see whom they address as an existence independent of their own experience.
But because man experiences himself as indeterminate, his actualization of one possibility over another needs confirmation. In order for confirmation to be complete one must know that he is being made present to the other. As becomes clear in his articles on education, confirmation is not the same as acceptance or unconditional affirmation of everything the other says or does. In these cases confirmation denotes a grasp of the latent unity of the other and confirmation of what the other can become.
Helping relations, such as educating or healing, are necessarily asymmetrical. This form of knowledge is not the subsumption of the particularity of the other under a universal category. When one embraces the pain of another, this is not a sense of what pain is in general, but knowledge of this specific pain of this specific person.
Nor is this identification with them, since the pain always remains their own specific pain. Buber differentiates inclusion from empathy.
In contrast, through inclusion, one person lives through a common event from the standpoint of another person, without giving up their own point of view. Rather than focusing on relation, Good and Evil: Buber argues that good and evil are not two poles of the same continuum, but rather direction Richtung and absence of direction, or vortex Wirbel.
Evil is a formless, chaotic swirling of potentiality; in the life of man it is experienced as endless possibility pulling in all directions.
We manifest the good to the extent we become a singular being with a singular direction. Buber explains that imagination is the source of both good and evil. Endless possibility can be overwhelming, leading man to grasp at anything, distracting and busying himself, in order to not have to make a real, committed choice. If occasional caprice is sin, and embraced caprice is wickedness, creative power in conjunction with will is wholeness.
In so doing it redeems evil by transforming it from anxious possibility into creativity. Because of the temptation of possibility, one is not whole or good once and for all. Rather, this is an achievement that must be constantly accomplished. This process, Buber argues, is guided by the presentiment implanted in each of us of who we are meant to become.
Seeming is the essential cowardice of man, the lying that frequently occurs in self-presentation when one seeks to communicate an image and make a certain impression. The fullest manifestation of this is found in the propagandist, who tries to impose his own reality upon others. Mistrust takes it for granted that the other dissembles, so that rather than genuine meeting, conversation becomes a game of unmasking and uncovering unconscious motives.
Buber criticizes Marx, Nietzsche and Freud for meeting the other with suspicion and perceiving the truth of the other as mere ideology. In mistrust one presupposes that the other is likewise filled with mistrust, leading to a dangerous reserve and lack of candor.
As it is a key component of his philosophic anthropology that one becomes a unified self through relations with others, Buber was also quite critical of psychiatrist Carl Jung and the philosophers of existence.
Despite his criticisms of Freud and Jung, Buber was intensely interested in psychiatry and gave a series of lectures at the Washington School of Psychiatry at the request of Leslie H. A New Transcript With Commentary. Often labeled an existentialist, Buber rejected the association. He asserted that while his philosophy of dialogue presupposes existence, he knew of no philosophy of existence that truly overcomes solitude and lets in otherness far enough. Sartre in particular makes self-consciousness his starting point.
Indeed, self-consciousness is one of the main barriers to spontaneous meeting. Buber explains the inability to grasp otherness as perceptual inadequacy that is fostered as a defensive mechanism in an attempt to not be held responsible to what is addressing one.
Only when the other is accorded reality are we held accountable to him; only when we accord ourselves a genuine existence are we held accountable to ourselves. Both are necessary for dialogue, and both require courageous confirmation of oneself and the other. In Buber's examples of non-dialogue, the twin modes of distance and relation lose balance and connectivity, and one pole overshadows the other, collapsing the distinction between them.
For example, mysticism absorption in the all turns into narcissism a retreat into myselfand collectivism absorption in the crowd turns into lack of engagement with individuals a retreat into individualism. This throws the self back into the attitude of solitude that Buber sought to escape. Hasidic Judaism In his book Eclipse of God, Martin Buber explains that philosophy usually begins with a wrong set of premises: He prefers the religious, which in contrast, is founded on relation, and means the covenant of the absolute with the particular.
Religion addresses whole being, while philosophy, like science, fragments being.
I and Thou - Wikipedia
According to the Teaching of Hasidism. In distinction from the one, unlimited source, this manifold is limited, but has the choice and responsibility to effect the unification yihud of creation. In addition to defining Hasidism by its quest for unity, Buber contrasts the Hasidic insistence on the ongoing redemption of the world with the Christian belief that redemption has already occurred through Jesus Christ.
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. 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: 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.
The Revelation and the Covenant, On the Bible: 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. In the prophetic attitude one draws oneself together so that one can contribute to history, but in the apocalyptic attitude one fatalistically resigns oneself. The tension between these two tendencies is illustrated in his historical novel Gog and Magog: A Novel also published as For the Sake of Heaven: 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.
Martin Buber's I and Thou
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. 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.
Buber says that the I-Thou relation is a direct interpersonal relation which is not mediated by any intervening system of ideas. No objects of thought intervene between I and Thou. Thus, I-Thou is not a means to some object or goal, but is an ultimate relation involving the whole being of each subject. Love, as a relation between I and Thou, is a subject-to-subject relation. Buber claims that love is not a relation of subject-to-object.
Love is an I-Thou relation in which subjects share this unity of being. Love is also a relation in which I and Thou share a sense of caring, respect, commitment, and responsibility.
Buber argues that, although the I-Thou relation is an ideal relation, the I-It relation is an inescapable relation by which the world is viewed as consisting of knowable objects or things. The I-It relation is the means by which the world is analyzed and described. However, the I-It relation may become an I-Thou relation, and in the I-Thou relation we can interact with the world in its whole being.
I-Thou is a relation in which I and Thou have a shared reality. Buber contends that the I which has no Thou has a reality which is less complete than that of the I in the I-and-Thou. The more that I-and-Thou share their reality, the more complete is their reality. According to Buber, God is the eternal Thou.
God is the Thou who sustains the I-Thou relation eternally.
In the I-Thou relation between the individual and God, there is a unity of being in which the individual can always find God. In the I-Thou relation, there is no barrier of other relations which separate the individual from God, and thus the individual can speak directly to God.
The eternal Thou is not an object of experience, and is not an object of thought. The eternal Thou is not something which can be investigated or examined. The eternal Thou is not a knowable object.