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I and Thou | Study Guide

Martin Buber

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I and Thou | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Jesus Christ Jesus Christ (c. 6–4 BCE–c. 30 CE), considered by Christians to be a human manifestation of God (a being both God and human), is the founder of Christianity. Read More
The Buddha The Buddha (c. 6th–4th century BCE), also known as Gautama Siddhartha and the Awakened One, is the founder of Buddhism. In his treatise, Buber critiques Buddhist philosophy, which is diametrically opposed to Buber's God-centered dualistic approach to the sacred. Read More
Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) was a French military commander and politician who took control of the French government after the early French revolutions and went on to conquer large swaths of Europe and name himself Emperor. Buber cites Napoleon as an exemplar of someone who had no experience of I-You because all other beings were merely valore, or value or worth, in reference to his objectives.
Meister Eckhart Buber cites Catholic theologian, writer, and mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260–1328) as an example of someone who speaks from the perspective of being immersed in God. Eckhart clashed with church authorities because some of his mystical writings were deemed heretical, but he ultimately retracted his "errors."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Poet, playwright, novelist, and arguably the greatest German literary influence of the modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) had a philosophical bent. Buber mentions him as someone who shares an I-You relationship with nature.
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was an influential German Enlightenment philosopher. Martin Buber mentions Kant in the context of the antinomy (paradox) that arises in giving weight to both philosophy and religion. Buber mentions Kant's discussion of the conflict between freedom and necessity: Kant relegates freedom to the world of appearance and necessity to the world of being. Buber compares Kant's resolution of this paradox to his own paradox in which people both surrender to God and depend on God even though God also needs people.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher and cultural critic whose writings about morality, culture, power, and consciousness, among other subjects, have had an enormous influence in arts and letters and in the social sciences, particularly psychology, not to mention philosophy. Martin Buber quotes Nietzsche's Ecce Homo (1908) in this text, in which he is discussing the overman: "One accepts, one does not ask who gives." While Nietzsche wasn't referring to God, Buber uses the quote to express that it is not necessary (nor possible) to understand the mystery of the eternal You; one simply receives from that source.
Socrates Socrates (c. 470 BCE–399 BCE) is one of the founders of Greek philosophy and Plato's teacher. Buber mentions Socrates as an exemplar of I-You relation, as seen in his conversations with his students.
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