Full Title:   I and Thou

Author:   Martin Buber

Language:   German

Original Title:   Ich und Du

Time and Place Written:   Buber wrote I and Thou in the early 1920s, in Berlin, Germany, after several decades of preparation.

Date of First Publication:   1923

Place of First Publication:   Berlin

Date of First English Translation:   1937

First English Translator:   Ronald Gregor Smith

Speaker:   For the most part, Buber is the speaker in the book, but he periodically interrupts his narrative with queries from a sympathetic but slightly skeptical interlocutor, who may well also be Martin Buber.

Subjects Covered:   I and Thou treats a remarkable range of topics. The first part deals with psychology, the second with sociology, and all three parts deal with religion. Thinkers in fields as wide-ranging as psychoanalysis and education have found that the book speaks directly to their subjects as well.

Style:   I and Thou is not written in regular prose form and is certainly not written in the typical logically rigorous style of philosophy. The text reads more like poetry, or a mystical hymn. The writing is purposely obscure and set out as a series of short reflections.

Philosophical Movement:   It is difficult to place Buber strictly within a philosophical movement, though many view him as closely allied with existentialist thought.

Goal of the Book:   Buber’s goal is to get us to recognize that we have been ignoring one of the two modes available to us for engaging the world, and to open ourselves up to this mode of encounter.

Philosophical Movements Opposed:   Buber opposes all movements, philosophical and otherwise, which attempt to understand our relationship with God as anything other than a conversation between two active participants. Most fervently, however, he opposes the Enlightenment philosophers who seek to turn God into an abstract principle, the Romantic philosophers who sought to turn God into nature, and the 19th century atheists, such as Nietzsche and Marx, who sought to prove that God is nothing but a sad delusion.