- Hardcover: 140 pages
- Publisher: Hesperides Press (November 4, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1443724106
- ISBN-13: 978-1443724104
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 150 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,402,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I And Thou Hardcover – November 4, 2008
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First published in 1923, in my opinion, it is certainly the most important book of the 20th century. Over the course of decades, it affected religious and philosophical thinking throughout the Western world, and even in some Asian places.
Buber shows how the relationships between people, between people and the world and between people and God are pivotal in how we see the world.
"To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude ...in accord with the twofold nature of the primary words he speaks ...
"The one primary word is the combination I-Thou.
"The other primary word is the combination I-It ...," says Buber at the beginning of this work.
This is much more complex than can be explained here, which is why you need to read this book of only 137 pages, including the postscript.
In short, when we approach someone with the attitude of I-It, we see him or her as an object. This is the attitude we often take at work, and the attitude which allows us to exploit the world.
When we approach someone with the attitude of I-Thou, we see him or her as the unique and existentially real person he or she really is at heart. We see that person's soul and can never treat him or her as an object in any way.
This attitude is also the way we address the world when it seems magical, such as in moments when nature calls to us and we see it as part of ourselves and ourselves as a part of it.
I-Thou is how we address God when our hearts and souls open to let the Infinite in, when the spirit of God touches us.
In other words, I-Thou is when we are in true relation with anything, when the boundaries we set up between ourselves and the world come down.
Unfortunately, since we live in a material world, there are times when we must address the world as I-It, which is where troubles begin.
Buber was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher who was a part of the Zionist movement as the editor of its central newspaper, but later became an advocate of a joint Palestinian-Jewish homeland to share what is Israel today.
Since Buber wrote "I and Thou" in idiosyncratic German, with a highly poetic and metaphorical structure, there are differences in how some think it should be translated. Personally, I prefer the translation Buber worked on with Ronald Gregor Smith, because it retains its poetic and reverent tone, but the most available translation is a later translation by Walter Kaufmann. Readers may have to find used copies to find the Smith translation, as I did, get the Kindle edition or try the interlibrary loan system.
Even if you've read this gem, it bears reading again. Different chapters of our lives can give it added meaning, which is why I read it every few years.
Don't miss this one.