Re: Existentialist or religious prophet?


[ Martin Buber - Discussions ]


Written by Kevin at 26 Jun 2000 13:42:47:

As an answer to: Re: Existentialist or religious prophet? written by Sean Scully at 06 Jun 2000 05:06:17:


>>
>>Was Martin Buber really an existentialist? Is it possible
>>that Buber was influenced by the ancient hebrew religion?
>>What are the differences?
>>

Existentialism & religion are not mutually
exclusive.

Buber's existentialism is concerned
with "...man's special place in the cosmos,
his connexion with destiny, his relation to
the world of things, his understanding of his
fellow men, his existence as a being that
knows it must die, his attitude in the ordin-
ary and extraordinary encounters with the
mystery with which his life is shot through."
(Between Man & Man)

This perspective is religious in the sense
that remaining open to the meeting between
I & Thou (knowing directly), acknowledging
its primacy over the I-It way of knowledge
(knowing about), is the basic presupposition
of religious faith. Buber does not proceed
from any biblical or Hasidic teaching except
those which speak to him from his own real
meetings with other human beings.

Existentialism is better indicated by exam-
ple than defined. Buber's philosophy of
dialogue is explicitly existential in its con-
cern for concrete reality, for example, rather
than abstractions or ideas. Reality or what
is called "real life" occurs, according to Buber,
in the meeting between I & Thou. Refusing
to be categorized, respecting the unduplicate-
able uniqueness of each individual, moment,
& situation, is also characteristic of existent-
ialism (as well as Hasidic pietism), as when
Buber writes:

"My questioners and critics have fastened
on me some labels. Regardless of whether
they are meant in criticism or in praise,
I should like to contribute to their being torn
off."
(Library of Living Philosophers XII)

From Maurice Friedman's introduction to
The Worlds of Existentialism:

"At an informal discussion before my lecture
[on 'the Existentialism of Martin Buber'],
a student said to me, 'I know nothing of Martin
Buber, and I know nothing of existentialism.
But I have an idea that the latter is important
for the former. So could you give me a brief
definition of existentialism?' 'Would it not be
better,' I replied, 'if I told you something directly
about Buber instead of offering you a general
category from which you deduce something
about him?' After a pause I added, 'And I have
given you a definition of existentialism in what
I just said.' "

- Kevin






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