Martin Buber's Journey to Presence

Martin Buber's Journey to Presence

Phil Huston
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Martin Buber's Journey to Presence
    Book Description:

    What does Martin Buber mean, in I and Thou, by the claim that the one thing that matters is full acceptance of presence? An attempt to answer this question led the author on a journey of exploration through Buber's early writings, to reach a clarification of Buber's predialogical concept of God. She examines Buber's first major philosophical work: Daniel: Dialogues in Realization, drawing attention to inaccuracies in the available English translation. Buber's desire for presence, she finds, began with an overwhelming experience of absence. His search is for a presence that will not let him down, that will not be a mis-encounter--that is, for a presence that will ensure that there is meaning.This book will be an invaluable text for the student looking for a readable guide to Buber's early writings. It will help readers to understand the rich depth and many layers of thought in Buber's masterpiece, I and Thou, and to appreciate the radical change that took place in Buber's concept of God prior to its publication in 1923.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4816-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    This work began with a question: What is meant by Buber’s statement inI and Thouthat the one thing needful is full acceptance of presence? Having studiedI and ThouI then examined the “Religion as Presence” Lectures, which Buber gave in 1922, beforeI and Thouwas published. These lectures, which are not widely known, form the basis forI and Thou. In particular they develop an understanding of presence that leads to an appreciation of God as Presence. This understanding of presence is the key toI and Thou. But they are also very critical of Buber’s...

  5. 1. Childhood
    (pp. 1-23)

    Martin Buber was born on 8 February 1878 in Vienna. His parents, Carl Buber (1848–1935) and Elise (née Wurgast), lived in a house over the Danube. Martin was the only child of their marriage. He recalls that as a small child he enjoyed watching the Danube canal under the house with a feeling of certainty that nothing could happen to him. However, the separation of his parents when he was three years old “broke up” the home of his childhood.¹

    His mother left the family home without leaving a trace;² Buber’s daughter informs us that she had in fact...

  6. 2. The Becoming God
    (pp. 24-56)

    In the winter semester 1899–1900, Buber studied in Berlin at the Royal Friedrich Wilhelm University and enrolled for courses on the General History of Philosophy and Philosophical Exercises under Professor Wilhelm Dilthey and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy and Sociology under Georg Simmel. Both of these professors made a profound impression on Buber.¹ Paul Mendes-Flohr has demonstrated Simmel’s influence on Buber’s thought, and I will later discuss part of this influence, that is, the distinction between religion and religiosity that is an element in Buber’s journey toward presence.

    Buber’s essay, “Über Jakob Boehme,” will enable us to appreciate his early position regarding...

  7. 3. The One Thing Needful
    (pp. 57-105)

    Between 1904, when he completed his dissertation on Cusa and Boehme, and 1909, Buber withdrew from his activity in the Zionist party and stopped writing articles and giving speeches. Having read the testament of Rabbi Israel Baal-Shem inZevaat Ribesh, Buber took five years away from his normal activities and immersed himself in gathering and studying Hasidic literature.¹ During this period he published two books on Hasidism:Die Geschichten des Rabbi Nachman(Tales of Rabbi Nachman) andDie Legende des Baal-Shem(The Legend of the Baal-Shem).

    Buber retained his early interest in the mystical tradition. He collected the mystical confessions...

  8. 4. Realization
    (pp. 106-184)

    Buber’s first work of original philosophical thought isDaniel: Gespräche von der Verwirklichung (Daniel: Dialogues on Realization), published in 1913. This book of five dialogues is a pivotal work. It draws on Buber’s past experience and contains the seed that will flower inI and Thou. InDaniel, Buber attempts to give a philosophical basis to the theme of “realization”—a theme that I have shown was already present in the addressesOn Judaism. This basis is established through the five dialogues: Direction, Reality, Meaning, Polarity, and Unity. Each of these dialogues takes place in a different setting, and the...

  9. 5. The Presence of God
    (pp. 185-208)

    The events, which led to Buber’s turning toward the presence of God, have been well documented; it is only necessary for me to mention them. Perhaps the best known is Buber’s experience of not being fully present to the young man, Mehe, who came to talk to him in 1914 and met an untimely death afterward. After a morning of “religious” enthusiasm, Buber was not there with his whole being for this caller.¹ Later, Buber wrote: “When I answer the call of present being—‘Where art thou?’—with ‘Here I am,’ but am not really there, that is, not with...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 209-242)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-250)
  12. Index
    (pp. 251-258)