What does it really mean to be person-centered? Where are the limits? Is it possible to indicate a core? And if so, what is it? Is it possible to combine orientations, to integrate methods and add techniques? What are the prospects of the development and influence of what once was regarded a radical paradigm?
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Secondary Sources 1. Buber would only see his mother once more, when he was in his early thirties. His grandfather, Solomon, was a community leader and scholar who edited the first critical edition of the Midrashim traditional biblical commentaries. At the age of fourteen he began to be tormented with the problem of imagining and conceptualizing the infinity of time.
However, this infatuation with Nietzsche was short lived and later in life Buber stated that Kant gave him philosophic freedom, whereas Nietzsche deprived him of it. Buber spent his first year of university studies at Vienna. Ultimately the theatre culture of Vienna and the give-and-take of the seminar format impressed him more than any of his particular professors.
He considered becoming a psychiatrist, but was upset at the poor treatment and conditions of the patients. Paula was formally converted from Catholicism to Judaism. They had two children, Rafael and Eva Buber was a habitual re-writer and editor of all of his writings, which went through many editions even in his lifetime, and many of these legends were later rewritten and included in his later two volume Tales of the Hasidim At the same time Buber emerged as a leader in the Zionist movement.
Always active in constructing dialogue across borders, this was the first high level periodical to be co-edited by members of the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faiths. Buber continued inter-religious dialogue throughout his life, corresponding for instance with Protestant theologians Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.
Despite his prolific publishing endeavors, Buber struggled to complete I and Thou. He resigned after Hitler came into power in and was banned from teaching until , but continued to conduct Jewish-Christian dialogues and organize Jewish education until he left for British Palestine in Initially Buber had planned to teach half a year in Palestine at Hebrew University, an institution he had helped to conceive and found, and half a year in Germany.
But Kristallnacht, the devastation of his library in Heppenheim and charges of Reichsfluchtsteuer Tax on Flight from the Reich , because he had not obtained a legal emigration permit, forced his relocation. After his emigration Buber became Chair of the Department of Sociology of Hebrew University, which he held until his retirement in This prepared teachers to live and work in the hostels and settlements of the newly arriving emigrants.
Education was based on the notion of dialogue, with small classes, mutual questioning and answering, and psychological help for those coming from detention camps. From the beginning of his Zionist activities Buber advocated Jewish-Arab unity in ending British rule of Palestine and a binational state. In he helped found Brit Shalom Covenant of Peace and in helped form the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation, which consolidated all of the bi-national groups. In , the League created a political platform that was used as the basis for the political party the Ichud or Ihud, that is, Union.
In addition to his educational and political activities, the s and 50s saw an outburst of more than a dozen books on philosophy, politics and religion, and numerous public talks throughout America and Europe. On June 13, Martin Buber died. The leading Jewish political figures of the time attended his funeral.
Classes were cancelled and hundreds of students lined up to say goodbye as Buber was buried in the Har-Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem. Philosophical Anthropology a. For many thinkers Buber is the philosopher of I and Thou and he himself often suggested one begin with that text.
However, his later essays articulate a complex and worthy philosophical anthropology. The origin for Buber is always lived experience, which means something personal, affective, corporeal and unique, and embedded in a world, in history and in sociality. The goal is to study the wholeness of man, especially that which has been overlooked or remains hidden.
Buber stated that ideologization was the worst thing that could happen to his philosophy and never argued for the objectivity of his concepts. Knowing only the reality of his own experience, he appealed to others who had analogous experiences. Targeting Kant and Hegel, he argues that while this questioning begins in solitude, in order for man to find who he is, he must overcome solitude and the whole way of conceiving of knowledge and reality that is based on solitude. Buber accuses Hegel of denigrating the concrete human person and community in favor of universal reason and argues that man will never be at home or overcome his solitude in the universe that Hegel postulates.
With its emphasis on history, Hegel locates perfection in time rather than in space. This type of future-oriented perfection, Buber argues, can be thought, but it cannot be imagined, felt or lived. Our relationship to this type of perfection can only rest on faith in a guarantor for the future.
Instead, Buber locates realization in relations between creatures. Overcoming our solitude, which tends to oscillate between conceiving of the self as absorbed in the all collectivism and the all as absorbed into the self solipsistic mysticism , we realize that we always exist in the presence of other selves, and that the self is a part of reality only insofar as it is relational. In later writings Buber clarified that inner life is not exhausted by these two modes of being.
However, when man presents himself to the world he takes up one of them. While each of us is born an individual, Buber draws on the Aristotelian notion of entelechy, or innate self-realization, to argue that the development of this individuality, or sheer difference, into a whole personality, or fulfilled difference, is an ongoing achievement that must be constantly maintained.
In I and Thou, Buber explains that the self becomes either more fragmentary or more unified through its relationships to others. Like I and Thou, Daniel distinguishes between two modes of existence: orienting Rientierung , which is a scientific grasp of the world that links experiences, and realization Verwirklichung , which is immersion in experience that leads to a state of wholeness. In I and Thou man becomes whole not in relation to himself but only through a relation to another self.
We exchange in language, broadly conceived, with man, transmit below language with nature, and receive above language with spirit. Socrates is offered as the paradigmatic figure of dialogue with man, Goethe, of dialogue with nature, and Jesus, of dialogue with spirit. That we enter into dialogue with man is easily seen; that we also enter into dialogue with nature and spirit is less obvious and the most controversial and misunderstood aspect of I and Thou.
Dialogue with spirit is the most difficult to explicate because Buber uses several different images for it. Because of this, I and Thou was widely embraced by Protestant theologians, who also held the notion that no intermediary was necessary for religious knowledge.
Spiritual address is that which calls us to transcend our present state of being through creative action. The eternal form can either be an image of the self one feels called to become or some object or deed that one feels called to bring into the world. The first, mentioned by Walter Kaufmann in the introduction to his translation of I and Thou, is that the language is overly obscure and romantic, so that there is a risk that the reader will be aesthetically swept along into thinking the text is more profound than it actually is.
Buber acknowledges that the text was written in a state of inspiration. For this reason it is especially important to also read his later essays, which are more clearly written and rigorously argued. In his response Buber explains that he is concerned to avoid internal contradiction and welcomes criticism. However, he acknowledges that his intention was not to create an objective philosophic system but to communicate an experience. His point is rather to investigate what it is to be a person and what modes of activity further the development of the person.
It gives us all scientific knowledge and is indispensable for life. Primal distance sets up the possibility of these two basic word pairs, and the between Zwischen emerges out of them. Animals respond to the other only as embedded within their own experience, but even when faced with an enemy, man is capable of seeing his enemy as a being with similar emotions and motivations. Buber argues that every stage of the spirit, however primal, wishes to form and express itself.
Form assumes communication with an interlocutor who will recognize and share in the form one has made. Distance and relation mutually correspond because in order for the world to be grasped as a whole by a person, it must be distanced and independent from him and yet also include him, and his attitude, perception, and relation to it.
Relation presupposes distance, but distance can occur without genuine relation. Buber explains that distance is the universal situation of our existence; relation is personal becoming in the situation. Relation presupposes a genuine other and only man sees the other as other. This other withstands and confirms the self and hence meets our primal instinct for relation. Just as we have the instinct to name, differentiate, and make independent a lasting and substantial world, we also have the instinct to relate to what we have made independent.
Only man truly relates, and when we move away from relation we give up our specifically human status. Buber argues that, while animals sometimes turn to humans in a declaring or announcing mode, they do not need to be told that they are what they are and do not see whom they address as an existence independent of their own experience. But because man experiences himself as indeterminate, his actualization of one possibility over another needs confirmation.
In order for confirmation to be complete one must know that he is being made present to the other. As becomes clear in his articles on education, confirmation is not the same as acceptance or unconditional affirmation of everything the other says or does. In these cases confirmation denotes a grasp of the latent unity of the other and confirmation of what the other can become.
Helping relations, such as educating or healing, are necessarily asymmetrical. This form of knowledge is not the subsumption of the particularity of the other under a universal category.
When one embraces the pain of another, this is not a sense of what pain is in general, but knowledge of this specific pain of this specific person. Nor is this identification with them, since the pain always remains their own specific pain. Buber differentiates inclusion from empathy. In contrast, through inclusion, one person lives through a common event from the standpoint of another person, without giving up their own point of view.
Buber argues that good and evil are not two poles of the same continuum, but rather direction Richtung and absence of direction, or vortex Wirbel. Evil is a formless, chaotic swirling of potentiality; in the life of man it is experienced as endless possibility pulling in all directions.
We manifest the good to the extent we become a singular being with a singular direction. Buber explains that imagination is the source of both good and evil. Endless possibility can be overwhelming, leading man to grasp at anything, distracting and busying himself, in order to not have to make a real, committed choice.
If occasional caprice is sin, and embraced caprice is wickedness, creative power in conjunction with will is wholeness. In so doing it redeems evil by transforming it from anxious possibility into creativity. Because of the temptation of possibility, one is not whole or good once and for all.
Rather, this is an achievement that must be constantly accomplished. This process, Buber argues, is guided by the presentiment implanted in each of us of who we are meant to become. Seeming is the essential cowardice of man, the lying that frequently occurs in self-presentation when one seeks to communicate an image and make a certain impression. The fullest manifestation of this is found in the propagandist, who tries to impose his own reality upon others. Mistrust takes it for granted that the other dissembles, so that rather than genuine meeting, conversation becomes a game of unmasking and uncovering unconscious motives.
Buber criticizes Marx, Nietzsche and Freud for meeting the other with suspicion and perceiving the truth of the other as mere ideology. In mistrust one presupposes that the other is likewise filled with mistrust, leading to a dangerous reserve and lack of candor.
Martin Buber (1878—1965)