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Martin Mordechai Buber

Hebrew: Martin Mordechai Buber, מרטין בובר
Also Known As: "‎מרטין מרדכי בובר"
Birthplace: Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Death: Died in Jerusalem, Israel
Place of Burial: Jerusalem, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Kalman Carl Buber and Elise Buber
Husband of Paula Judith Buber
Father of Rafael Buber and Eva (Chava) Strauss-Steinitz
Half brother of Nechama Nelly Natalie Braude and Irene Halpern

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Martin Buber

Martin Buber (Hebrew: מרטין בובר‎; February 8, 1878 – June 13, 1965) was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship.

The work of the prolific essayist, translator, and editor Martin Buber (1878-1965) is predominantly dedicated to three areas: the philosophical articulation of the dialogic principle (das dialogische Prinzip), the revival of religious consciousness among the Jews (by means of the literary retelling of Hasidic tales and an innovative German translation of the Bible), and to the realization of this consciousness through the Zionist movement. Such was the power of his spoken and written word that during the First World War many young men wrote to him for guidance in difficult moral, religious, and political crises. His answers were seen as those of an authority who rose above the ideologies of the day. A man of considerable organizational talent, Buber shunned responsibility for the nascent political institutions of Zionism. Instead, he attempted to transform the Zionist movement by articulating what he saw as its unique historic mission: the realization of a Hebraic humanism (Grete Schaeder). His advocacy of a binational solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine is widely considered to be an indication of the political utopianism Buber developed together with his friend Gustav Landauer, an aesthetic politics shaped in the anarchist and religious socialist movements of the first two decades of the twentieth century.

A selection of Buber's works, edited by him in his eighties, comprises more than four thousand pages and is divided into writings on philosophy, the Bible, Hasidism, and (published posthumously) Judaism. There are several volumes of published letters, and the Bible translation begun with Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) and completed after WWII is still widely used by German Christian ministers who appreciate its poetic language. A complete edition of Buber's works, edited by Paul Mendes-Flohr and Peter Schäfer, is forthcoming.

1. Biographical Background

The setting of Buber's childhood and youth was the Austro-Hungarian empire of the fin-de-siècle, the multiethnic conglomerate whose collapse in the First World War ended a thousand years of rule by Catholic princes in the West. Its cosmopolitan capital Vienna was home to late Romantic music, sophisticated theatrical productions, and psychologically perceptive literature. Among the young Buber's first publications are essays and translations into Polish of the poetry of his older peers (e.g., Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal). In historical and cultural terms, Buber's philosophical and literary voice is best understood as related to the Viennese culture of his youth which saw the rise of radically new approaches to psychology (Otto Weininger, Sigmund Freud) and philosophy (Ludwig Wittgenstein), and where solutions to the burning social and political issues of city and empire were often expressed in grandly theatrical oratory (Lueger, Hitler) and in estheticizing rhetoric and self-inscenation (Theodor Herzl).

Buber's parents (Carl Buber and Elise née Wurgast) separated in 1882. For the next ten years, Martin lived with his paternal grandparents, Solomon and Adele Buber, in Lemberg (Lvov). Solomon, a ‘master of the old Haskala’ (Martin Buber) who called himself ‘a Pole of the Mosaic persuasion’ (Friedman [1981] p. 11), produced the first modern editions of rabbinic midrash literature yet was greatly respected even by the ultraorthodox establishment. His reputation opened the doors for Martin when he began to show interest in Zionism and Hasidic literature. The wealth of his grandparents was built on the Galician estate administered by Adele and enhanced by Solomon through mining, banking, and commerce. It provided Martin with financial security until the German occupation of Poland in 1939, at which time the estate was destroyed. Home-schooled and pampered by his grandmother, Buber became a bookish aesthete with few friends his age and the play of the imagination as his diversion. He easily absorbed local languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, German) and acquired others (Greek, Latin, French, Italian, English). German was the dominant language at home, while the language of instruction at the Franz Joseph Gymnasium was Polish. This multilingualism nourished Buber's life-long obsession with words and meanings.

In 1900, after his years of study (see below), Buber and his partner, Paula Winkler, moved to Berlin where the anarachist Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) was among their closest friends. Landauer played an important role in Buber's life when, in 1916, he criticized Buber for his public enthusiasm for the German war effort. This critique from a trusted friend had a sobering effect, triggering Buber's turn from an aestheticizing social mysticism to the philosophy of dialogue. 1916 was also the year Martin, Paula, and their two children left the big city and moved to the small town of Heppenheim, near Frankfurt on the Main where, since 1904, Buber had been employed as an editor. In Frankfurt, Buber met Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) with whom he was to develop a close intellectual companionship. After the war, Rosenzweig recruited Buber as a lecturer for the newly established center for Jewish adult education (Freies jüdisches Lehrhaus), he persuaded Buber to take on a widely visible lectureship in Jewish religious studies and ethics at Frankfurt University, and Rosenzweig became Buber's chief collaborator in the project, initiated by the young Christian publisher Lambert Schneider, to produce a new translation of the Bible into German. Buber lived and worked in Frankfurt until his emigration to Palestine in 1937. The remainder of his life he lived and taught mostly in Jerusalem, teaching social philosophy. 2. Zionism

Recruited by his older compatriot, the Budapest-born and Vienna-based journalist Theodor Herzl, Buber briefly edited the main paper of the Zionist party, Die Welt, but soon found a more congenial place in the ‘democratic faction’ led by Chaim Weizmann, then living in Zurich. Buber's phases of engagement in the movement's political institutions alternated with extended phases of disengagement, but he never ceased to write and speak about what he understood to be the distinctive Jewish brand of nationalism. Buber seems to have derived an important lesson from the early struggles between political and cultural Zionism for the leadership and direction of the movement. He realized that his place was not in high diplomacy and political education but in the search for psychologically sound foundations on which to heal the rift between modernist realpolitik and a distinctively Jewish theological-political tradition. Very much in keeping with the nineteenth-century Protestant yearning for a Christian foundation of the nation-state, Buber sought a healing source in the integrating powers of the religious experience.

After a hiatus of more than ten years during which Buber spoke to Jewish youth groups (most famously the Prague Bar Kokhba) but refrained from any practical involvement in Zionist politics, he reentered Zionist debates in 1916 when he began publishing the journal Der Jude which served as an open forum of exchange on any issues related to cultural and political Zionism. In 1921 Buber attended the Zionist Congress in Carlsbad as a delegate of the socialist Hashomer Hatzair (“the young guard”). In debates following violent riots in 1928 and 29 on whether to arm the Jewish settlers in Palestine Buber represented the pacifist option; in debates on immigration quotas following the 1936 Arab boycott Buber argued for demographic parity rather than trying to achieve a Jewish majority. Finally, as a member of Brit Shalom Buber argued for a bi-national rather than for a Jewish state in Palestine. At any of these stages Buber harbored no illusion about the chances of his political views to sway the majority but he believed that it was important to articulate the moral truth as one saw it rather than hiding one's true beliefs for the sake of political strategy. Needless to say, this politics of authenticity made him few friends among the members of the Zionist establishment. 3. Early Philosophical Influences

Among Buber's early philosophical influences were Kant's Prolegomena which he read at the age of fourteen, and Nietzsche's Zarathustra. Whereas Kant had a calming influence on the young mind troubled by the aporia of infinite versus finite time, Nietzsche's doctrine of “the eternal recurrence of the same” constituted a powerful negative seduction. By the time Buber graduated from Gymnasium he felt he had overcome this seduction, but Nietzsche's prophetic tone and aphoristic style are evident in Buber's subsequent writings. Between 1896 and 1899 he studied history of art, German literature, philosophy, and psychology in Vienna, Leipzig (97/98), Berlin (98/99), and Zurich (99). In Vienna he absorbed the latest literature and poetry, most importantly the oracular poetry of Stefan George which influenced him greatly, although he never became a disciple of George. In Leipzig and Berlin he developed an interest in the ethnopsychology of Wilhelm Wundt, the social philosophy of Georg Simmel, the psychiatry of Carl Stumpf, and the lebensphilosophisch approach to the humanities of Wilhelm Dilthey. In Leipzig he attended meetings of the Society for Ethical Culture (Gesellschaft für ethische Kultur), then dominated by the thought of Lasalle and Tönnies.

From his early reading of philosophical literature Buber retained some of the most basic convictions found in his later writings. In Kant he found two answers to his concern with the nature of time. If time and space are pure forms of perception, then they pertain to things only as they appear to us (i.e., to phaenomena) and not to things-in-themselves (nooumena). Thus time primarly concerns the way in which we experience the Other. But can the Other be experienced at all or is it necessarily reduced to the scope of our phenomenal knowledge, to what Buber later called the I-It relation? Yet Kant also indicated ways of meaningfully speaking of the noumenal, even though not in terms of theoretical reason. Practical reason, i.e., the categorical imperative that considers the Other as an end in itself rather than the means to an end, as well the teleological (aesthetic) judgment developed in Kant's Third Critique, seem to admit the possibility of a rational faith, a faith that resonated with Buber's feeling that the phenomenon is always the gateway to the noumenon, just as the noumenal cannot be encountered other than in the concrete phenomena. Thus Buber managed to infuse the seemingly dry Kantian distinctions with an immediate sense of reality. Before this measured view dominated Buber's thought, however, he leaned toward Nietzsche's enthusiastic endorsement of the primacy of life in its immediacy and its superiority to an Apollonian world of distance and abstraction. 4. Social Philosophy

Although his earliest writings were literary and theatrical reviews, Buber's major interest was the tension between society and community. Just as he had enlivened Kant's distinction between phenomenon and noumenon with his literary imagination, so too he transformed the value-theoretical distinction between types of social aggregation of Ferdinand Tönnies (Gesellschaft und Gemeinschaft) into a wellspring for his political speeches and writings. The political arena for his social, psychological, and educational engagement was the Zionist movement. Buber's interest in social philosophy was stimulated by his close friendship with Gustav Landauer who was also among the authors Buber recruited for the forty volume series on “Society” (Die Gesellschaft) that he edited for the Frankfurt publishing house Ruetten & Loening. As a pioneer of social thought and a student of Georg Simmel, Buber participated in the 1909 founding conference of the German sociological association. While Buber's social-psychological approach to the study and description of social phenomena was soon eclipsed by quantitative approaches, his interest in the constitutive correlation between the individual and his and her social experience remained an important aspect of his philosophy of dialogue. 5. I and Thou: The Dialogic Principle

Buber's best known work is the short philosophical essay Ich und Du (1923), first translated into English in 1937 by Ronald Gregor Smith. In the 1950's and 60's, when Buber first traveled and lectured in the USA, the essay became rather popular in the English speaking world. Since then it has been associated with the intellectual culture of the student movement's spontaneity, authenticity, and anti-establishment sentiment.

I and Thou is considered to have inaugurated “a Copernican revolution in theology (…) against the scientific-realistic attitude” (Bloch [1983], p. 42), but it has also been criticized for its reduction of fundamental human relations to just two — the I-Thou and the I-It — of which the latter appears as a mere ‘cripple’ (Franz Rosenzweig in a letter to Buber in Sept. 1922). Walter Kaufmann, who produced a second English translation of I and Thou, went further in his criticism. While he did not regard the lack of deep impact of Buber's contributions to biblical studies, Hasidism, and Zionist politics as an indication of failure, he considered I and Thou a shameful performance in both style and content. In style the book invoked “the oracular tone of false prophets” and it was ‘more affected than honest.’ Writing in a state of “irresistible enthusiasm,” Buber lacked the critical distance needed to critique and revise his own formulations. His conception of the I-It was a “Manichean insult” while his conception of the I-Thou was ‘rashly romantic and ecstatic,’ and Buber ‘mistook deep emotional stirrings for revelation.’ (Kaufmann [1983], pp. 28-33)

Buber always insisted that the dialogic principle, i.e., the duality of primal relations that he called the I-Thou and the I-It, was not a philosophical conception but a reality beyond the reach of discursive language. In the initial exuberance of making this discovery Buber briefly planned for I and Thou to serve as the prolegomenon to a five-volume work on philosophy, but he realized that, in Kaufmann's words, “he could not build on that foundation” and hence abandoned the plan. It has been argued, however, that Buber nevertheless solved the inherent “difficulty of dialogics that it reflects on, and speaks of, a human reality about which, in his own words, one cannot think and speak in an appropriate manner” (Bloch [1983] p. 62) by writing around it, inspired by one's conviction of its veracity.

The debate on the strength and weakness of I and Thou as the foundation of a system hinges on the perhaps fallacious assumption that the five-volume project Buber intended to write but soon abandoned was indeed a philosophical one. Buber's contemporaneous lectures at the Freies jüdisches Lehrhaus and at the University of Frankfurt as well as his letters to Rosenzweig indicate quite clearly that he was concerned with the development of a new approach to the study of religion (Religionswissenschaft) (cf. Schottroff) rather than with a new approach to the philosophy of religion. 6. The Vagueness of Buber's Language

The preponderance in Buber's writings of abstract nouns such as “experience,” “realization,” and “encounter,” and his predilection for utopian political programs such as anarchism, socialism, and a bi-national solution to the conflict in Palestine point to a characteristic tension in his personality. The philosopher of the “I and Thou” allowed very few people to call him by his first name; the theorist of education suffered no disturbance of his rigorous schedule by children playing in his own home; the utopian politician alienated most representatives of the Zionist establishment; and the innovative academic lecturer could hardly find a proper place in the university he had helped to create — the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Some of the most dedicated students of this inspiring orator and writer found themselves irritated by the conflict between their master's ideas and their own attempts at putting them into practice. In the final analysis it seems as if Buber always remained the well-groomed, affected, prodigiously gifted, pampered Viennese boy whose best company were the works of his own imagination, and whose overtures to the outside world were always tainted by his enthusiasm for words and for the stylized tone of his own voice. 7. Man of Letters

Buber's wide range of interests, his literary abilities, and the general appeal of his philosophical orientation are reflected in the far flung correspondence he conducted over the course of his long life. As the editor of Die Gesellschaft Buber corresponded with Georg Simmel, Franz Oppenheimer, Ellen Key, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Werner Sombart, and many other authors. Among the poets of his time with whom he exchanged letters were Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Hermann Hesse, and Stefan Zweig. He was particularly close to the socialist novellist Arnold Zweig. With poet Chaim Nachman Bialik and novellist Sh. Y. Agnon he shared a deep interest in the revival of Hebrew literature. He published the works of the Jewish Nietzschean story-teller Micha Josef Berdiczewsky. He was a major inspiration to the young Zionist cadre of Prague Jews (Hugo Bergmann, Max Brod, Robert Weltsch) and became a major organizer of Jewish adult education in Germany where he lived until 1937. Buber's name is intimately linked with that of Franz Rosenzweig and his circle (Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Hans Ehrenberg, Rudolf Ehrenberg, Victor von Weizsäcker, Ernst Michel, etc.), an association that manifested itself, among others, in the journal Die Kreatur (1926-29). Der Jude and his many speeches on Judaism made Buber the central figure of the Jewish cultural renaissance of the 1920's. Younger intellectuals from highly assimilated families, such as Gershom Scholem and Ernst Simon, were awakened to a modern form of Judaism through Buber and developed their own profiles in struggling against Buber's influence. Buber also counted among his friends and admirers Christian theologians such as Karl Heim, Friedrich Gogarten, Albert Schweitzer, and Leonard Ragaz. Buber's philosophy of dialogue entered into the discourse of psychoanalysis through the work of Hans Trüb, and is today among the most popular approaches to educational theory in German-language studies of pedagogy. 8. Honors and Legacy

Among the honors Buber received are the Goethe-Prize of the City of Hamburg (1951), the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (Frankfurt am Main, 1953), and the Erasmus Prize (Amsterdam, 1963). Significant students who considered their own work a continuation of Buber's legacy were Nahum Glatzer (Buber's only doctoral student during his years at the university in Frankfurt, 1924-1933, later an influential teacher of Judaic Studies at Brandeis University), Akiba Ernst Simon (historian and theorist of education in Israel who first met Buber at the Freies jüdisches Lehrhaus in Frankfurt, founded by Franz Rosenzweig, and who returned from Palestine to work with Buber and Ernst Kantorowicz for the Mittelstelle für jüdische Erwachsenenbildung from 1934 until 1938), Maurice Friedman (Buber's American translator and a prolific author in his own right who introduced Buber to American religious scholarship), Walter Kaufmann (who, despite his critique of Buber's I and Thou as a poeticized philosophy helped to popularize it in the USA), and several significant Israeli scholars (Shmuel Eisenstadt, Amitai Etzioni, Jochanan Bloch) who knew Buber in his later years when he taught seminars on social philosophy and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Martin Bubers family tree back to Rashi June 14, 1965 OBITUARY

Martin Buber, 87, Dies in Israel; Renowned Jewish Philosopher Special to The New York Times

JERUSALEM, June 13--Prof. Martin Buber, the renowned Jewish philosopher and educator, died here today. He was 87 years old.

One of the great thinkers of this century, Dr. Buber had served as a professor at the Hebrew University since his arrival in Palestine in 1938 from his native Austria.

His translation of the Old Testament into German, begun with the late Franz Rosenzweig, is considered by many the best in existence.

Since 1951, when he retired from teaching, he had held the title of professor emeritus of social philosophy at the university. A few weeks ago he received the Freedom of Jerusalem Award, the last of many honors accorded him. Several years ago he was nominated for the Nobel Prize by the late Dag Hammarskjold who rarely failed to visit Dr. Buber when his duties as Secretary General of the United Nations brought him to Jerusalem.

When Dr. Buber died this morning, President Zalman Shazar immediately went to the philosopher's home to present his condolences. Press tributes will not come until tomorrow but the lead item on all the Government-controlled radio and news programs was the death of Professor Buber.

His leading disciple and closest friend and associate, Prof. Shemuel Hugo Bergman, said that with Dr. Buber's death, "humanity has lost one of its greatest sons, Jewry has lost its greatest son and Israel has lost her living conscience."

Professor Buber is survived by two children and several grandchildren.

Views Affected Christianity

Martin Buber was a religious philosopher whose views on human and divine relationships had a fertilizing effect on the Christian world.

His philosophy of personalism was an amalgam of religious mysticism, Old Testament inspiration, modern psychology and earthy common sense. It contended that man could achieve an intimate relationship with God through an intimate interrelationship with his fellow man, and that each man's relationship with God and a fellow man was distinct.

He strove for a "a dialogue," between man and God with man as "I" and God as "Thou." This concept was developed in his major philosophical work, "I and Thou."

Professor Buber's views influenced Protestant theologians. He impressed Reinhold Niebuhr as "the greatest living Jewish philosopher," and he was an inspiration in Dr. Niebuhr's thinking as well as in that of Paul Tillich, another leading Protestant theologian.

By his emphasis on dialogue, Professor Buber was regarded as a pioneer bridge builder between Judaism and Christianity. His views accented the non-formal aspects of religion as opposed to theological systems.

Saw Religion as Experience

Religion for Professor Buber was experience, not dogma. He doubted that man was made to conform with canon law, or with elaborately worked out plans for existence. On the contrary, Professor Buber's credo stressed individual responsibility.

A story that was told to illustrate this point concerned an aged pious man, Rabbi Susya, who became fearful as death drew near. His friends chided him, "What! Are you afraid that you'll be reproached that you weren't Moses?" "No," the rabbi replied, "that I was not Susya."

The responsibility to be oneself means, in Professor Buber's view, that there is no rigid fate; that man can improve his chances for happiness.

In fact, according to Professor Buber, man has an obligation to achieve an identity by refusing to abdicate his will before the monolithic power of party, corporation or state.

Professor Buber pointed to the duality of things--love and justice, freedom and order, good and evil: but he did not suggest a happy middle way between them.

Contraries Held Inseparable

"According to the logical conception of truth," he once explained, "only one of two contraries can be true, but in the reality of life as one lives it they are inseparable.

"I have occasionally described my standpoint to my friends as the 'narrow ridge.' I wanted by this to express that I did not rest on the broad upland of a system that includes a series of sure statements about the absolute, but on a narrow, rocky ridge between the gulfs, where there is only the certainty of meeting what remains undisclosed."

Professor Buber suggested two forms of relationships for man--an I-It relationship and an I- Thou. The first is impersonal and imperfect.

An example of the I-It relationship would be where one person treats another as a machine, or when lovers find only a projection of themselves in each other.

In religious matters, the I-It is expressed when man abstracts God, or regards Him as out of reach, or builds theological systems in which God is remote, or considers God too vast. Professor Buber, however, did not deny that God was the great mystery of the Old Testament, but he insisted that He was also personal.

Paradox of God Noted

"Of course," Professor Buber wrote, "He [God] is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows, but He is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I."

The I-Thou of Professor Buber's thinking stands for the kind of dialogue--love or even hate--in which two persons face and accept each other as truly human. There is in such a dialogue, he argued, a fusion of choosing and being chosen, of action and reaction, that engages man's highest qualities.

I-Thou meetings, he explained, are "strange, lyric and dramatic episodes, seductive and magical, but tearing us away to dangerous extremes. . .shattering security."

The I-Thou relationship, because it does away with pretension, permits man to meet with himself, Professor Buber said. And, ultimately, it brings man into contact with God, whom Professor Buber called the "Eternal Thou."

This supreme confrontation has been described by Prof. Maurice S. Friedman of Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y., one of the leading interpreters of Buberism. It is "perhaps best understood," Dr. Freidman wrote in his "Martin Buber, the Life of Dialogue," "from the nature of the demand which one person makes on another if the two of them really meet. If you are to meet me, you must become as much of a person as I am. In order to remain open to God [man] must change his whole being."

Ideal Social Unit Like Kibbutz

Believing that man's earthly chore is to realize his distinctiveness through the dialogue process, Professor Buber opposed both rigid individualism and collectivism. His social ideal was a small community unit somewhat like the kibbutzim of rural Israel.

Professor Buber also looked at Scripture in a special way. The Bible, in his view, was neither an infallible guide to conduct nor a mere collection of legends, but a dialogue between Israel as Thou and God as I.

Because of this interpretation and because Professor Buber was casual in his observance of Talmudic law, many Orthodox rabbis looked upon him as a heretic. As for Reform Jews, some of them also criticized Professor Buber because they thought he had made too much of the metaphysical Hasidic sect, from which he drew many of his ideas.

Many Jews also were dismayed by the application that Professor Buber made of his beliefs in calling for an improvement of Arab-Israeli relations. This attitude rested on Professor Buber's assertion that "the love of God is unreal unless it is crowned with love for one's fellow men."

He Was Small and Bearded

Professor Buber was a short plump man with a large paunch. He was bald with a fringe of hair that hung down to meet the luxurious growth of mustache and beard that concealed the lower part of his face.

He lived in an old Arab stone house with red tile roof and garden in the section of Jerusalem that before Israel's independence was the quarter of the wealthy Arab merchants.

Dr. Buber's house had belonged to an Arab Christian family who left Jerusalem shortly before the war broke out in 1948.

He lived simply in the house. His study and bedroom were on the ground floor. The furniture was old and dark and heavy and looked as if it had been brought from Vienna. The house was filled with books.

He lived with his granddaughter, Barbara Goldschmitt, who served as his housekeeper. His secretary was often there but did not live in the house.

For several years Dr. Buber had not been active outside his home because of periodic spells of illness and advancing age. But he loved to have visitors and to talk endlessly. When a caller phoned he would hear a click and then a quick sharp one word response: "Buber."

Received in Shirt Sleeves

When receiving visitors in his study, Dr. Buber would be without tie, in shirt sleeves and slippers behind his desk. He did not like general questions and frequently prompted his questioner with "be specific."

He got angry with anyone who tried to ask him personal anecdotal questions, insisting that his personal life was just that.

In conversation he would rest his interlocked fingers on his paunch and then move them to his forehead as he considered his response. He weighted every word and when he finally answered it would be in a very slow low voice that seemed tinged with melancholy.

Professor Buber gave up lecturing at the Hebrew University in 1951, when he ended his active life as an educator. However it is recalled that some of his lectures on philosophy were reminiscent of the atmosphere that might have distinguished the Socratic dialogues. On other occasions, while lecturing, he showed the zeal and earnestness, even veneration, with which Hasidic students are said to follow the words and teachings of their rabbi.

On his 85th birthday in 1963, about 300 students of the university staged a torchlight parade to the philosopher's house to pay homage to him. They swarmed into his garden and in the darkness illuminated by the flames he walked out onto his veranda, his face wreathed in smiles, deeply appreciative of the gesture.

The students sang to him and he talked briefly to them as they listened in silence, and then they all went into his house for cookies and soft drinks.

Six months later, Professor Buber flew to Amsterdam to accept one of Europe's highest prizes, the $28,000 Erasmus Award, presented to persons who have contributed to the spiritual unity of Europe.

Previous winners included Karl Jaspers, the philosopher, and Marc Chagall, the painter.

Born in Vienna in 1878

Martin Buber was born in Vienna Feb. 8, 1878, of middle-class parents who were divorced when he was 3 years old. He spent much of his childhood in Lemberg, Galicia, [now Lvov, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic] with his grandfather Salomon Buber, a well-known Hebrew scholar.

While studying the Talmud with his grandfather, he also read poetry and novels and occasionally visited neighboring towns where he met Hasidic rabbis--holy men who could lead a community united by its love of God and its veneration for a wise man.

When he was 13 he began a drift away from formal Judaism. This was symbolized by his offering a bar mitzvah synagogue talk on Schiller, the dramatist, rather than on a scriptural subject. Later he gave up the daily prayer ritual, but not without misgivings that almost led him to suicide because of what he said later was "a mysterious and overwhelming compulsion" to visualize the "limiting brink of time--or its limitlessness."

He was rescued, he said, by reading Immanuel Kant and perceiving, as a result, "an eternal far removed from the finite and the infinite."

He entered the University of Vienna at 17 and studied philosophy and the history of art there and at the Universities of Berlin, Zurich and Leipzig. He received a Ph. D. from Vienna in 1904, but he did not use the title.

It was at the University of Leipzig, in 1900, that the scholar was caught up by Theodor Herzl's Zionism, in which he found not only a political movement that suited him but also a religious idea that helped to resolve his spiritual confusion.

Edited Zionist Journal

In 1901 he came editor of Die Welt, the Zionist journal, and the following year he helped to found Judischer Verlag, a Jewish publishing house.

One of the writers for Die Welt was Paula Winkler, a brilliant, aristocratic Roman Catholic. She subsequently was married to Professor Buber, converting to Judaism, and remained at his side until her death in 1958. In her own right, Mrs. Buber was a novelist under the name Georg Munk.

Meanwhile, there was a split in Zionism. Professor Buber was one of those who believed that a spiritual revival was more urgent than political nationhood. Mr. Herzl favored a political solution. In the course of the division, Professor Buber dropped out of active Zionism and retired into solitude for five years.

He passed that time in remote Jewish villages in what was then Galicia (now Poland) living among the Hasidim and studying their literature and their zaddickim, or holy men.

Joy Impressed Him

At the time, this grass-roots Judaism was considered as bordering on the occult, but Professor Buber found in Hasidism an experience of direct communion with the Divine. He was also impressed by the joy--the ecstatic dance and the wordless song--with which they worshipped.

The Hasidic folklore, in its simplicity, was profound, he believed.

Returning from his retreat among the Hasidim, Professor Buber was active in Jewish journalism, editing from 1916 to 1924 Der Jude, a periodical of the German Jews. From 1926 to 1930, in concert with a Catholic and a Protestant, he edited the journal, Die Kreatur.

At the same time he was professor of comparative religion at the University of Frankfurt, from 1923 to 1933. When the Nazis excluded Jewish students from institutions of higher learning in 1933, Professor Buber helped to set up adult education classes for them.

Dr. Buber was dismissed from his professorship. He spoke out, however, once lecturing on "The Power of the Spirit" in Berlin, although he knew that 200 SS (elite guard) men were in the audience. Utterly silenced in 1938, he went to Palestine, where he was professor of social philosophy at the Hebrew University until his retirement in 1951.

Professor Buber was a prodigious writer. More than 700 books and papers by him are listed in one "selected" bibliography. Many of them deal with aspects of the I-Thou philosophy. He was also a translator of renown.

In Israel, Professor Buber was not a conformist. For example, he opposed the execution of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi put to death by Israel for crimes against the Jews.

"For such crimes," he said at the time, "there is no penalty." He took the position that where the imagination cannot envision a suitable penalty for such horrendous crimes as Eichmann's, a death penalty was meaningless.

Professor Buber visited the United States in 1951. The lectures he delivered here were later published as "Eclipse of God" and "At the Turning." He received the Universal Brotherhood award from the Union Theological Seminary and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.


Martin Buber was born in 1878 in Vienna, Austria. Biographers describe his father, Carl Buber, as either an agronomist or a farmer.Martin’s mother, Elise, left the family in 1881. Soon after his mother left, Martin was sent to live with Carl’s parents in the Ukraine, which was a region of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time.

Martin was raised in Lemberg, Galicia, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The city was later known as Lviv, Ukraine, within the USSR. As of 2008, the preferred Anglicized name seems to be Lvov, Ukrainian Republic.

Salomon Buber was a noted Jewish scholar with a general interest in all religions. Martin’s grandfather taught the young boy Hebrew and introduced him to Jewish mysticism. The Hasidic community of Galicia had a tradition of Kabbalah, the interpretration of scriptures via ciphers, numerology, and symbolic substitution. Kabbalism fascinated Martin, especially the concept that God could be understood by individuals through dedicated thought.

As a university student, Buber studied art history and philosophy in Leipzig, Zurich, Berlin, and Vienna. During his university studies, Buber read extensively, especially classic German idealism and romanticism of the nineteenth century. Buber’s philosophical views were also shaped by Friedrich Nietzsche, Søren Kierkegaard, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. In 1904, Buber received his doctorate; his dissertation topic was German mysticism.

Martin Buber (February 8, 1878 – June 13, 1965) was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship.[1] Born in Vienna, Buber came from a family of observant Jews, but broke with Jewish custom to pursue secular studies in philosophy. In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement, although he later withdrew from organizational work in Zionism. In 1923 Buber wrote his famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou), and in 1925 he began translating the Hebrew Bible into the German language. In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main, and resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. In 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, in the British Mandate of Palestine, receiving a professorship at Hebrew University and lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology. Buber's wife Paula died in 1958, and he died at his home in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 13, 1965.

Martin (Hebrew name: מָרְדֳּכַי, Mordechai) Buber was born in Vienna to an Orthodox Jewish family. His grandfather, Solomon Buber, in whose house in Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) Buber spent much of his childhood, was a renowned scholar of Midrash and Rabbinic Literature. At home Buber spoke Yiddish and German. In 1892, Buber returned to his father's house in Lemberg. A personal religious crisis led him to break with Jewish religious customs: he started reading Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The latter two, in particular, inspired him to pursue studies in philosophy. In 1896, Buber went to study in Vienna (philosophy, art history, German studies, philology). In 1898, he joined the Zionist movement, participating in congresses and organizational work. In 1899, while studying in Zürich, Buber met his future wife, Paula Winkler, a non-Jewish Zionist writer from Munich who later converted to Judaism.[2] [edit]Themes

Buber's evocative, sometimes poetic writing style has marked the major themes in his work: the retelling of Hasidic tales, Biblical commentary, and metaphysical dialogue. A cultural Zionist, Buber was active in the Jewish and educational communities of Germany and Israel. He was also a staunch supporter of a binational solution in Palestine, and after the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, of a regional federation of Israel and Arab states. His influence extends across the humanities, particularly in the fields of social psychology, social philosophy, philosophical anarchism, and religious existentialism. [edit]Zionist views

Approaching Zionism from his own personal viewpoint, Buber disagreed with Theodor Herzl about the political and cultural direction of Zionism. Herzl envisioned the goal of Zionism in a nation-state, but did not consider Jewish culture or religion necessary. In contrast, Buber believed the potential of Zionism was for social and spiritual enrichment. Herzl and Buber would continue, in mutual respect and disagreement, to work towards their respective goals for the rest of their lives. In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement. However a year later Buber became involved with the Jewish Hasidism movement. Buber admired how the Hasidic communities actualized their religion in daily life and culture. In stark contrast to the busy Zionist organizations, which were always mulling political concerns, the Hasidim were focused on the values which Buber had long advocated for Zionism to adopt. In 1904, Buber withdrew from much of his Zionist organizational work and devoted himself to study and writing. In that year he published his thesis: Beiträge zur Geschichte des Individuationsproblems (on Jakob Böhme and Nikolaus Cusanus). [edit]Literary and academic career

In 1923 Buber wrote his famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou). Though he edited the work later in his life, he refused to make substantial changes. In 1925 he began, in conjunction with Rosenzweig, translating the Hebrew Bible into German. He himself called this translation Verdeutschung ("Germanification"), since it does not always use literary German language but attempts to find new dynamic (often newly-invented) equivalent phrasing in order to respect the multivalent Hebrew original. Between 1926 and 1928 Buber co-edited the quarterly Die Kreatur ("The Creature"). From 1910 to 1914, Buber studied myths and published editions of mythic texts. In 1916 he moved from Berlin to Heppenheim. During World War I he helped establish the Jewish National Commission in order to improve the condition of Eastern European Jews. During that period he became the editor of Der Jude (German for "The Jew"), a Jewish monthly (until 1924). In 1921 Buber began his close relationship with Franz Rosenzweig. In 1922 Buber and Rosenzweig co-operated in Rosenzweig's House of Jewish Learning, known in Germany as Lehrhaus. In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. On 4 October 1933 the Nazi authorities forbade him to lecture. In 1935 he was expelled from the Reichsschrifttumskammer (the National Socialist authors' association). He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. The Nazi administration increasingly obstructed this body. Finally, in 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, in British-occupied Palestine. He received a professorship at Hebrew University there, lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology. He participated in the discussion of the Jews' problems in Palestine and of the Arab question - working out of his Biblical, philosophic and Hasidic work. He became a member of the group Ichud, which aimed at a bi-national state for Arabs and Jews in Palestine. Such a binational confederation was viewed by Buber as a more proper fulfillment of Zionism than a solely Jewish state. In 1946 he published his work Paths in Utopia, in which he detailed his communitarian socialist views and his theory of the "dialogical community" founded upon interpersonal "dialogical relationships". After World War II Buber began giving lecture-tours in Europe and the USA. [edit]Awards

In 1951, Buber received the Goethe award of the University of Hamburg. In 1953, he received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. In 1958, he was awarded the Israel Prize in the humanities.[3] In 1963, he won the Erasmus Award in Amsterdam. [edit]Philosophy

Buber is famous for his synthetic thesis of dialogical existence, as he described in the book I and Thou. However, his work dealt with a range of issues including religious consciousness, modernity, the concept of evil, ethics, education, and Biblical hermeneutics. [edit]Dialogue and existence In I and Thou, Buber introduced his thesis on human existence. Inspired partly by Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity and Kierkegaard's "Single One", Buber worked upon the premise of existence as encounter.[4] He explained this philosophy using the word pairs of Ich-Du and Ich-Es to categorize the modes of consciousness, interaction, and being through which an individual engages with other individuals, inanimate objects, and all reality in general. Philosophically, these word pairs express complex ideas about modes of being - particularly how a person exists and actualizes that existence (see existentialism). As Buber argues in I and Thou, a person is at all times engaged with the world in one of these modes. The generic motif Buber employs to describe the dual modes of being is one of dialogue (Ich-Du) and monologue (Ich-Es). The concept of communication, particularly language-oriented communication, is used both in describing dialogue/monologue through metaphors and expressing the interpersonal nature of human existence. [edit]Ich-Du Ich-Du ("I-Thou" or "I-You") is a relationship that stresses the mutual, holistic existence of two beings. It is a concrete encounter, because these beings meet one another in their authentic existence, without any qualification or objectification of one another. Even imagination and ideas do not play a role in this relation. In an I-Thou encounter, infinity and universality are made actual (rather than being merely concepts). Buber stressed that an Ich-Du relationship lacks any composition (e.g. structure) and communicates no content (e.g. information). Despite the fact that Ich-Du cannot be proven to happen as an event (e.g. it cannot be measured), Buber stressed that it is real and perceivable. A variety of examples are used to illustrate Ich-Du relationships in daily life - two lovers, an observer and a cat, the author and a tree, and two strangers on a train. Common English words used to describe the Ich-Du relationship include encounter, meeting, dialogue, mutuality, and exchange. One key Ich-Du relationship Buber identified was that which can exist between a human being and God. Buber argued that this is the only way in which it is possible to interact with God, and that an Ich-Du relationship with anything or anyone connects in some way with the eternal relation to God. To create this I-Thou relationship with God, a person has to be open to the idea of such a relationship, but not actively pursue it. The pursuit of such a relation creates qualities associated with it, and so would prevent an I-You relation, limiting it to I-It. Buber says by being open to the I-Thou, God will eventually come to you. Also, because the God Buber describes is completely devoid of qualities, this I-You relation lasts as long as the individual chooses. When the individual finally chooses to return to the I-It world, they act as a pillar of deeper relation and community. [edit]Ich-Es The Ich-Es ("I-It") relationship is nearly the opposite of Ich-Du. Whereas in Ich-Du the two beings encounter one another, in an Ich-Es relationship the beings do not actually meet. Instead, the "I" confronts and qualifies an idea, or conceptualization, of the being in its presence and treats that being as an object. All such objects are considered merely mental representations, created and sustained by the individual mind. This is based partly on Kant's theory of phenomenon, in that these objects reside in the cognitive agent’s mind, existing only as thoughts. Therefore, the Ich-Es relationship is in fact a relationship with oneself; it is not a dialogue, but a monologue. In the Ich-Es relationship, an individual treats other things, people, etc., as objects to be used and experienced. Essentially, this form of objectivity relates to the world in terms of the self - how an object can serve the individual’s interest. Buber argued that human life consists of an oscillation between Ich-Du and Ich-Es, and that in fact Ich-Du experiences are rather few and far between. In diagnosing the various perceived ills of modernity (e.g. isolation, dehumanization, etc.), Buber believed that the expansion of a purely analytic, material view of existence was at heart an advocation of Ich-Es relations - even between human beings. Buber argued that this paradigm devalued not only existents, but the meaning of all existence. [edit]Note on translation Ich und Du has been translated from the original German into many other languages. However, because Buber's use of German was highly idiomatic and often unconventional, there has naturally been debate on how best to convey the complex messages in his text. One critical debate in the English-speaking world has centered around the correct translation of the key word pairs Ich-Du and Ich-Es. In the German the word "Du" is used, while in the English two different translations are used: "Thou" (used in Ronald Smith’s version) and "You" (used by Walter Kaufmann). The key problem is how to translate the very personal, even intimate German "Du", which has no direct equivalent in English. Smith argued that "Thou" invokes the theological and reverential implications which Buber intended (e.g. Buber describes God as the eternal "Du"). Kaufmann asserted that this wording was archaic and impersonal, offering "You" because (like the German Du) it has colloquial usage in intimate conversation. Despite this debate, Buber’s book is widely known in the English-speaking world as I and Thou, perhaps because the Smith translation appeared years before the Kaufmann one. However, both the Smith and Kaufmann translations are widely available. [edit]Hasidism and mysticism

Buber was a scholar, interpreter, and translator of Hasidic lore. He viewed Hasidism as a source of cultural renewal for Judaism, frequently citing examples from the Hasidic tradition that emphasized community, interpersonal life, and meaning in common activities (e.g. a worker's relation to his tools). The Hasidic ideal, according to Buber, emphasized a life lived in the unconditional presence of God, where there was no distinct separation between daily habits and religious experience. This was a major influence on Buber's philosophy of anthropology, which considered the basis of human existence as dialogical. In 1906, Buber published Die Geschichten des Rabbi Nachman, a collection of the tales of the Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a renowned Hasidic rebbe, as interpreted and retold in a Neo-Hasidic fashion by Buber. Two years later, Buber published Die Legende des Baalschem (stories of the Baal Shem Tov), the founder of Hasidism. Buber's interpretation of the Hasidic tradition, however, has been criticized by scholars such as Chaim Potok for its romanticization. In the introduction to Buber's Tales of the Hasidim, Potok notes that Buber overlooked Hasidism's "charlatanism, obscurantism, internecine quarrels, its heavy freight of folk superstition and pietistic excesses, its zaddik worship, its vulgarized and attenuated reading of Lurianic Kabbalah." Even more severe is the criticism that Buber deemphasized the importance of the Jewish Law in Hasidism. This is ironic, considering that Buber often delved into Hasidim to demonstrate that individual religiousity did not require a dogmatic, creedal religion. [edit]Brit Shalom and the bi-national solution

Already in the early 1920s Martin Buber started advocating a binational Jewish-Arab state, stating that the Jewish people should proclaim "its desire to live in peace and brotherhood with the Arab people and to develop the common homeland into a republic in which both peoples will have the possibility of free development." [1] Buber rejected the idea of Zionism as just another national movement and wanted instead to see the creation of an exemplary society; a society which would not, he said, be characterised by Jewish domination of the Arabs. It was necessary for the Zionist movement to reach a consensus with the Arabs even at the cost of the Jews remaining a minority in the country. In 1925 he was involved in the creation of the organisation Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace), which advocated the creation of a binational state, and throughout the rest of his life he hoped and believed that Jews and Arabs one day would live in peace in a joint nation. Nevertheless he was connected with decades of friendship to zionists and philosophers like Chaim Weizmann, Max Brod, Hugo Bergman and Felix Weltsch, who were close friends of his from old European times in Prague, Berlin and Vienna to the Jerusalem of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. After the Israeli state gained independence in 1948, Buber advocated Israel's participation in a federation of "Near East" states wider than just Palestine.[5] [edit]See also

Existential therapy Guilt Humanistic psychology Intersubjectivity Contextual therapy Franz Rosenzweig André Neher List of Israel Prize recipients List of Jewish pacifists and peace activists [edit]References

^ ^ The Existential Primer ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1958 (in Hebrew)". ^ Buber, Martin (1947; 2002). Between Man and Man. Routledge. pp. 250–251. ^ Buber, Martin (2005) [1954]. "We Need The Arabs, They Need Us!". in Paul Mendes-Flohr (ed.). A Land of Two Peoples. University of Chicago. ISBN 0-226-07802-7.


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Martin Buber's Timeline

February 8, 1878
Vienna, Vienna, Austria
July 9, 1900
Age 22
June 13, 1965
Age 87
Jerusalem, Israel
Age 86
Jerusalem, Israel
Philosopher and lecturer