I and Thou (Scribner Classics Series)by Martin Buber
Pub. Date: 06/13/2000
Today considered a landmark of twentieth-century intellectual history, I and Thou is also one of the most important books of Western theology. In it, Martin Buber, heavily influenced by the writings of Frederich Nietzsche, united the proto-Existentialists currents of modern German thought with the Judeo-Christian tradition, powerfully updating faith for/i>… See more details below
Today considered a landmark of twentieth-century intellectual history, I and Thou is also one of the most important books of Western theology. In it, Martin Buber, heavily influenced by the writings of Frederich Nietzsche, united the proto-Existentialists currents of modern German thought with the Judeo-Christian tradition, powerfully updating faith for modern times. Since its first appearance in German in 1923, this slender volume has become one of the epoch-making works of our time. Not only does it present the best thinking of one of the greatest Jewish minds in centuries, but has helped to mold approaches to reconciling God with the workings of the modern world and the consciousness of its inhabitants.
This work is the centerpiece of Buber's groundbreaking philosophy. It lays out a view of the world in which human beings can enter into relationships using their innermost and whole being to form true partnerships. These deep forms of rapport contrast with those that spring from the Industrial Revolution, namely the common, but basically unethical, treatment of others as objects for our use and the incorrect view of the universe as merely the object of our senses, experiences. Buber goes on to demonstrate how these interhuman meetings are a reflection of the human meeting with God. For Buber, the essence of biblical religion consists in the fact that regardless of the infinite abyss between them a dialogue between man and God is possible.
Ecumenical in its appeal, I and Thou nevertheless reflects the profound Talmudic tradition from which it has emerged. For Judaism, Buber's writings have been of revolutionary importance. No other writer has so shaken Judaism from parochialism and applied it so relevantly to the problems and concerns of contemporary men. On the other hand, the fundamentalist Protestant movement in this country has appropriated Buber's "I and Thou encounter" as the implicit basis of its doctrine of immediate faith-based salvation. In this light, Martin Buber has been viewed as the Jewish counterpart to Paul Tillich.
This is the original English translation, available in America only in this hardcover edition of I and Thou. Martin Buber considered Ronald Smith's the best of the English translations and it was prepared in the author's presence. The more poetic rendering, this translation can be looked at as the King James Version of Buber's I and Thou.
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- Classic Edition
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Martin Buber, Existential Jewish Theologian - an exquisitely deep, comprehensive thinker- has had a formidable influence on many disciplines. Of his many works, this text, I and Thou, has had far and away the greatest impact. A kind of philosophical anthropology / ontology- Prof. Buber has given the very useful distinct between the two most fundamental modes of being, of relation, those of the I-Thou and the I-it. Much more akin to poetic prose than anything like philosophical analysis, he offers a beautiful, yet absolutely trenchant "analysis" of humankind. An extremely (existentially, speaking) useful book, I have used it as the linchpin of the theoretical portion of my Ethics course for many years. In the end, to truly understand and appropriate this text, to live these words, is to have all the ethics you could possibly need. In fact, The I-Thou sums up the whole of Christian Ethics.
I and Thou is essential for all students of philosophy and religion regardless of their religious thinking as a guide to personal and human interactions. Buber brings the working definitions of "I", "You" and "Thou" into perspectives which have vital ramifications for how people accept their responsibilities for themselves and with other people. His designation and distinction of "thing" as contrasted with "you" adds a strong dimension and depth to how one views others in relation to themselves. Although it has been said that Buber's work is very dense, I found it to be very understandable given the English interpretation. The English translation of the original German text also includes footnotes which describe how the translator interpreted the original text. It is likely that readers will refer to this reference frequently in relation to many circumstances including the works of other philophers as well as all religious works.
The distinction between the I- It manipulative, impersonal relation and the I-Thou personal relationship in which one understands and sympathizes with the other is a fundamental distinction in human life and experience. In ethical terms it is tremendously significant. Thus Buber's little book in which he elaborates on this distinction is an important one. Buber is a great writer and thinker. This particular work however is somehow I found more difficult than most. Yet it is invaluable for those who would think soundly about the moral life.
Although I've finished the book in two days, I found it rather difficult to understand. According to the translater, Buber himself didn't know what he meant by some of his writing. (Wondering, who knows then?) Nevertheless, there must be something to it, or why would this book be on the best books list. I would love to read a version, that is not translated word by word, but written into an easy read/and understand mode.