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Buber, Martin

(1878–1965). Jewish religious thinker; national universalist. B. Vienna; spent most of first 14 yrs. in Poland with grandfather, Salomon Buber, outstanding Haskalah* student; educ. secondary school in Lvov and univs. of Vienna and Berlin. Prof. U. of Frankfurt 1923–33, Hebrew U. of Jerusalem 1938–51. Early in life participated in Zionist movement and regarded founding of political state as phase of Jewish Renaissance; influenced by H. Cohen*, G. Landauer*, G. Simmel*, W. Dilthey*, Nietzsche*, Kierkegaard*, Dostoevski*, Oriental philosophers.

In his early phase he was interested in mysticism* (e.g., writings of J. Eckhart* and J. Böhme*), which absorbs finite Self in Infinite because it concentrates on life energies and creative vitality.

Withdrew from writing and lecturing 1904 to devote 5 yrs. to study of Hasidism.* Thereafter strongly influenced by Kierkegaard, whose existentialism he modified in direction of Hasidism. Rejected mysticism as delusion; replaced earlier emphasis on unity by stress on diversity.

His mature philos, is in I and Thou (1923), which emphasizes relationship as central meaning of existence. There are 2 primary attitudes: “I-It” attitude (subject-object) objectifies experience and is never spoken with whole being; “I-Thou” attitude (subject-subject) is best seen in dialogue between 2 persons but also takes place with nature. God, the eternal Thou, is supreme partner of dialogue and underlying power in all other “I-Thou” encounters. Man relates to God with basic drives (hunger, sex, will) and institutions (politics, economics) that comprise material of his existence.

Buber often spoke of his own involvement with character of Jesus of Nazareth, whom he called “my great brother”; endeavored to understand the impulses of His Jewish being; strove to recover Him for Judaism; regarded Him as the incomparably purest figure in the hist. of Jewish messianism—but not as the Messiah.

Works include I and Thou; Between Man and Man; Two Types of Faith; Origin and Meaning of Hasidism; Hasidism and Modern Man; Israel and Palestine; Israel and the World; Paths in Utopia; The Prophetic Faith; Moses. EL

See also I-It and I-Thou.

M. Friedman, Martin Buber: the Life of Dialogue (New York, 1960); M. L. Diamond, Martin Buber: Jewish Existentialist (New York, 1960); M. Buber, Werke, 3 vols. (Munich, 1962–63); H. v. Balthasar, Martin Buber and Christianity, tr. A. Dru (New York, 1961).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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