Martin Buber's Social and Religious Thought

Martin Buber's Social and Religious Thought: Alienation and the Quest for Meaning

Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Martin Buber's Social and Religious Thought
    Book Description:

    "Moore focuses on Buber's central message about what it means to be a human being, a person of faith, and what mankind can do to overcome the eclipse of God." - Shofar"Solid, well researched, and sympathetic. might well spur a person to go back and read Buber." - Commonwealth

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8889-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    The academic study of Judaica has undergone a remarkable efflorescence in America during the last twenty years. The dream of the pioneers ofWissenschaft des Judentumsin the early nineteenth century that Judaica would become accepted into the curriculum and research program of great universities has largely come to pass. As the modern study of Jewish history and literature spread east, west, and south of its original German home, the scholarly investigation of Judaica itself became far richer more varied, and far reaching. Still encompassing traditional disciplines of philology, literature, theology, biography, and traditional history, the study of the Jewish...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Note on Gender and Language
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    The nature and scope of Martin Buber’s writings pose a number of problems for one seeking a coherent sense of his intellectual activity. In the current age of academic specialization, Buber’s writings elude convenient categorization with regard to both form and content. Ignoring the disciplinary boundaries that characterize university life, Buber’s work spans a number of conventional academic disciplines including psychology, philosophy, literature, religion, Jewish studies, art, politics, social theory, education, biblical studies, and philosophical anthropology. In addition, Buber wrote in many literary forms, including poetry, fiction, philosophical discourse, social theory, translation, textual commentary, and criticism.

    As a result, many...

  7. 1 Fin de Siècle Vienna: Cultural Context and Early Writings
    (pp. 18-42)

    While the termalienationhas held different meanings in the history of Western thought, it is generally used to describe a condition or experience in which a natural unity, wholeness, or relation in human life has been disrupted.¹

    The “facts” to which the term alienation refers are, objectively, different kinds of dissociation, break or rupture between human beings and their objects, whether the latter be other persons, or the natural world, or their own creations in art, science and society.²

    The concept of alienation serves as a fruitful and illuminating category around which to organize and integrate Martin Buber’s various...

  8. 2 Hasidism and the Renewal of Judaism
    (pp. 43-70)

    Martin Buber was one of the best-known interpreters of the Jewish spiritual movement of Hasidism, which had emerged in eastern Europe in the eighteenth century. Through his translations and commentaries, which he began to publish in 1908, Buber brought the teachings of Hasidism to the attention of the Western world. The interpretation of Hasidism was one of Buber’s lifelong central intellectual activities and the teachings of Hasidism provided him with fundamental insights around which he built his philosophical and religious positions. An analysis of Buber’s interpretation of Hasidism and the controversy that it provoked among Jewish scholars provides significant insights...

  9. 3 Revisioning Judaism
    (pp. 71-103)

    Like his interpretation of Hasidism, Buber’s interpretation of Judaism as a whole was the center of much controversy among Jewish scholars and philosophers.¹ As in the case of Hasidism, Buber’s critics based their approach on premises that Buber himself rejected and used a framework of interpretation that differed substantially from his. As I argued in chapter 2, the appropriate question for the reader of Buber is not whether Buber accurately describes an objective reality known as Judaism, but rather how he defines the Jewish problem and what mode of interpretation he employs to address that problem.

    As we saw in...

  10. 4 Edification and the Meaning of Personhood
    (pp. 104-139)

    Buber, in his earliest writings, had sensed that the alienation that pervades modern society is rooted in the basic modes of human interaction. However, it was not until the period immediately following World War I that he succeeded in formulating the concepts through which to carry out a sustained critique of these alienating conditions. Increasingly he came to see that these alienating modes of interaction are grounded in a mistaken concept of personhood. This flawed vision was, in turn, rooted in and helped to sustain the dominant alienating modes of discourse that prevailed in modern life. If modern individuals were...

  11. 5 Refining the Categories: From Relation to Dialogue
    (pp. 140-167)

    As we saw in the previous chapter, Buber’s concern inI and Thouwas an edifying one. On one level, he wished to elucidate the realm of the interhuman, which, he believed, constituted the essential sphere of human existence. At the same time, he undertook this task in an effort to unmask the sources of alienation and liberate the individual. Consequently, the effectiveness of his categories had to be measured in terms of their utility and applicability to concrete everyday situations.

    Buber’s basic concern was not to contribute to systematic philosophic inquiry but to reach out to people suffering the...

  12. 6 The Crisis of Community: Buber as Social Critic
    (pp. 168-203)

    In the previous chapters, I have presented Buber as an edifying philosopher who, moved by the alienated condition of modern society, sought to formulate an alternative way of viewing human existence.I and Thou, as we saw in chapter 5, represented a turning point in Buber’s lifelong effort to construct a set of categories that would enable his readers to revise radically the ways in which they perceive themselves and their relationships to other persons and the world around them.

    InI and Thou, Buber utilized a philosophic-poetic mode of discourse to formulate and transmit his ideas, but his primary...

  13. 7 Revisioning Religion: Between Person and the Eternal You
    (pp. 204-228)

    The relational philosophy first articulated inI and Thou, which provided the categories for Buber’s conception of person and community, also served as the basis for his mature conception of religion. Employing the language of relation and dialogue, Buber formulated an alternative way of talking about religion. Buber’s formulation yielded a new and powerful interpretation of God, worship, and idolatry.

    In his early writings on Hasidism and in his early lectures, published asOn Judaism(Reden über das Judenturn), Buber had advocated a highly individualized, personalized faith. By 1918, however, he had come to recognize the inadequacies of his earlier...

  14. 8 Living as a Jew
    (pp. 229-263)

    As I have repeatedly emphasized, Buber viewed his Jewishness and his humanness as inextricably related. Consequently, his ideas about Judaism and his ideas about society in general are intertwined. Just as he derived many of his insights regarding the human condition from the writings of the prophets and Hasidism, his interpretation of Judaism and Jewish life are grounded in his philosophical anthropology and his social theory.

    Buber’s view of Jewish existence is a dialectic of responsibility to and participation in a particular community and responsibility to humanity as a whole. While the individual Jew is committed to the life and...

  15. Concluding Reflections
    (pp. 264-266)

    My discussion of Buber’s activities as a social critic in Israel is an appropriate place to conclude my analysis of his social and religious thought. Buber the philosopher cannot be understood independently of Buber the social critic. Just as his philosophical writings provide the conceptual underpinnings to his social thought, his social criticism represents the culmination of his philosophical teachings. If the force of Buber’s philosophical anthropology most clearly emerges in the work of those who seek to heal the pain of mental suffering, the implications of his social thought are most clearly evident in his own efforts to address...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 267-328)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 329-346)
  18. Index
    (pp. 347-361)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 362-363)