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What is Buber’s main point about how we engage with the world?
Buber's goal is to make us recognize that we are ignoring one of the two modes available to us for engaging the world. He wants us to realize that the mode of experience (the mode of I–It) does not exhaust the possibilities. We can do more than gather data through our senses, and analyze, classify, and theorize about this data. We also need the mode of encounter (the mode of I–You). The usual philosophical style is the style of experience. In that style the emphasis is on analysis, categorization, and reasoning from data.
Why does Buber use a poetic aphoristic style rather than a philosophical style?
By writing instead, in a poetic, somewhat mysterious way, Buber hopes to awaken in us the inherent desire for another kind of engagement with the world beyond the mode of experience (the mode of I–It) and its inherent emphasis on analysis, categorization, and reasoning from data. He uses his aphoristic style to alert us to the unpredictable, unanalyzable mode of encounter (the mode of I–You).
Where can we see Nietzsche’s influence on Buber in I and Thou?
Buber borrows his aphoristic style from his philosophical hero, Friedrich Nietzsche. Like Nietzsche, his motivation in abandoning the usual philosophical style—in not laying out premises and drawing conclusions from these, but rather writing in bits and pieces seemingly put together in a haphazard order—is to try to get us to appreciate something that is opposed to philosophy, something that is opposed to logic and reason. Like Nietzsche, Buber tries to move us away from strict argumentation, as it represents the very way of thinking he criticizes. Although unlike Nietzsche, he does not want us to discard this way of thinking entirely, only to recognize that it is not the only method available.
What is love to Buber, and what is its role in the pursuit of a relation to God?
According to Buber, we can encounter all sorts of things: nature, animals, God, and other human beings. Encounter with human beings, he tells us, is best described as love. Love, according to Buber, is not a feeling. A feeling is something that one has, whereas love is something that one can dwell inside of, and a feeling exists inside one person, whereas love exists between two people. Love, he tells us, is a cosmic force: we can dwell in love, and if we do so we are transformed by it. In the moment of love, the You is everything, it is the whole, and by standing in relation to it, you stand in relation to the entire universe. The experience of loving another person, therefore, prepares us for the divine encounter because it allows us to live in a relationship that is larger than ourselves.
Ace your assignments with our guide to I and Thou!