Analysis Of Martin Buber 's I And Thou Essays

Analysis Of Martin Buber 's I And Thou Essays

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The problem with religious and secular worldviews in Martin Buber’s I and Thou is that
their conceptions of the highest good, in other words, the possibility of loving well, are
clouded by teleological ways of interaction. For Buber, the possibility of loving well, an
authentic existence, lies in one’s relation to God but God is only relatable through
relations with other people. In this essay, I argue that Buber responds adequately to the
problem posed by modern religion and society by providing a dualistic framework which
balances teleological and relational modes of existence. The first section of this paper
will unpack how Buber problematizes the primacy of teleological modes of relation in
modern society and religion. From there, I will explain his dualistic solution to this
problem, namely that religions must reclaim relationality to God, which for Buber is
understood through human relationality, to curb the inevitable drive towards goaloriented
living. Finally I conclude that Buber’s return to relationality is a complex but
relevant solution to the prevalence of the I-It world.
To understand how Buber approaches teleological modes of encounter, a brief outline of
his overarching dualistic framework in I and Thou, the “twofold attitude of man,” is
necessary. Take for example the biblical passages Genesis I and 2: in Genesis I, God
creates humans separately in his image and gives them dominion over the world, while
in Genesis 2, God created humans from the dust of the ground, animated by the breath
of life. The former implies human beings were created with a purpose, to subdue the
world to their will, while the latter implies no such purpose, only that humans were
created through God’s life-giving breath. Turning to Buber, th...


... middle of paper ...


...wonder
whether life without religion is bound to lack some dimension,” (Kauffman, p. 32). In a
time when religious dogmatism seems more anachronistic than ever, non-religious
alternatives have taken their place, be it the nation, the stock market, the dollar. Many of
us watch in despair as appeal to both religion and nation seem to yield fulfillment, yet
we are still of unsure where to take questions of our existence, we still feel that our life
“lacks some dimension.” When we take a moment and sit with Buber’s words, we can
see that these systems mistake an It for a You and that we, immersed in the world of
things, of use and experience, look to these systems to curb our anxiety over our lack of
relationality. Therefore, we begin to avoid prescriptive solutions to this issue, learning
not to flee from the unstable world of relation in favor of the I and It districts

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