Top positive review
163 people found this helpful
Life is about relating
on 16 April 2002
This book by an eminent Jewish thinker,was first published before World War 11 and became one of the most influential books of the 20th Century.It could be described as 'religious philosophy', but it is certainly not philosophy in the conventional sense i.e. it is not a closely-reasoned argument. Indeed, it reads more like a poem in prose and needs to be read accordingly. If read slowly and with time to ponder the meaning, it yields up its treasure and is a deeply rewarding book.
Buber sees all human life as being lived in relation to the world around us: the world of things and of people. He identifies two kinds of relation: I-It and I-Thou. In general we relate to things in fhe I-It mode. Things are objects of our preception, to be observed or used etc. They are "objects" for us as "subjects." Our relation with other people is usually like this like this, sometimes inevitably e.g. the bus driver when we are a passenger; sometimes wrongly, as when we exploit people and use them for our own ends. However, we become fully human when we enter into the I-Thou mode with other people - relating to them as person to person. This is true meeting and, says, Buber, "All real living is meeting."
Love exists between people as an I-Thou meeting. "The man who does not know this, does not know love", says Buber, and he goes on to give a moving and profound account of what love really is.The I-Thou relation is also possible with other living things: a tree and his pet cat are cited as examples! God is the Eternal Thou and we can meet him only in the I-Thou mode. God can never be "It"; always "Thou". He meets us as Thou and is present in every thou.
The I-Thou relation cannot be planned or contrived. It simply happens, but only as we are open to it as possibility. To be fully human persons we have to be open to this possibility.
This is not a book for the timid, but for the adventurous in spirit. It is a demanding and challenging read, but well worth the effort. The evils of the world are, in Buber's view, the result of our failure to be open to the possibility of I-Thou and being content with I-It. There is a sgnificant message here for us at the beginning of the Twenty-first Century.