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I and Thou | Study Guide

Martin Buber

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Course Hero. "I and Thou Study Guide." December 1, 2019. Accessed November 30, 2022.


Course Hero, "I and Thou Study Guide," December 1, 2019, accessed November 30, 2022,



Martin Buber

Year Published





Philosophy, Religion

At a Glance

Buber originally planned I and Thou as an introduction to his own studies of the phenomenology of religion—the study of religion through the lens of consciousness and self-awareness. However, Buber's idea of encountering the Other in a participatory and dynamic relationship became influential in the disciplines of both philosophy and education. Buber's ideas about relationships between two persons, between a person and a thing, and between a person and God have continued to influence philosophical psychology, medical anthropology, and educational theory in their emphasis on the sacredness of personhood. I and Thou also put Buber in the canon of religious existentialism, although Buber did not consider himself an existentialist—a believer in the philosophical attitude emphasizing personal agency developed through acts of free will. I and Thou also remains an important and influential text in both Christian and Jewish religious philosophy.

About the Title

German religious philosopher Martin Buber's (1878–1965) subject is the inquiry concerning what it means to be human. He centers this inquiry in relationships; being human goes beyond a single individual. The way in which humans approach the world can be described in two pronoun pairs, which he calls I-You (the translation for you in the original German text is the archaic thou, used only in the book's title in this guide) and I-It. Humans are accustomed to encountering the world through the I-It construct—that is, as an objective experience. But only when the contemplating subject "I" encounters the Other as You can the subject bring its whole being to an encounter. Such I-You encounters take place in a realm Buber calls the Between, which lies beyond subjectivism and objectivism. The former is the belief that reality and morality are grounded in human experience and perception, while the latter is the belief that reality and morality are independent of human experience and perception. Encounters in this Between are the subject of the book.


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