Primal distance sets up the possibility of these two basic word pairs, and the between Zwischen emerges out of them. Animals respond to the other only as embedded within their own experience, but even when faced with an enemy, man is capable of seeing his enemy as a being with similar emotions and motivations. Buber argues that every stage of the spirit, however primal, wishes to form and express itself.
Form assumes communication with an interlocutor who will recognize and share in the form one has made. Distance and relation mutually correspond because in order for the world to be grasped as a whole by a person, it must be distanced and independent from him and yet also include him, and his attitude, perception, and relation to it.
Relation presupposes distance, but distance can occur without genuine relation.
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Buber explains that distance is the universal situation of our existence; relation is personal becoming in the situation. Relation presupposes a genuine other and only man sees the other as other. This other withstands and confirms the self and hence meets our primal instinct for relation.
Just as we have the instinct to name, differentiate, and make independent a lasting and substantial world, we also have the instinct to relate to what we have made independent. Only man truly relates, and when we move away from relation we give up our specifically human status. Buber argues that, while animals sometimes turn to humans in a declaring or announcing mode, they do not need to be told that they are what they are and do not see whom they address as an existence independent of their own experience. But because man experiences himself as indeterminate, his actualization of one possibility over another needs confirmation.
The Moral Criticism of Law
In order for confirmation to be complete one must know that he is being made present to the other. As becomes clear in his articles on education, confirmation is not the same as acceptance or unconditional affirmation of everything the other says or does. In these cases confirmation denotes a grasp of the latent unity of the other and confirmation of what the other can become.
Helping relations, such as educating or healing, are necessarily asymmetrical.
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This form of knowledge is not the subsumption of the particularity of the other under a universal category. When one embraces the pain of another, this is not a sense of what pain is in general, but knowledge of this specific pain of this specific person. Nor is this identification with them, since the pain always remains their own specific pain. Buber differentiates inclusion from empathy. In contrast, through inclusion, one person lives through a common event from the standpoint of another person, without giving up their own point of view.
Buber argues that good and evil are not two poles of the same continuum, but rather direction Richtung and absence of direction, or vortex Wirbel. Evil is a formless, chaotic swirling of potentiality; in the life of man it is experienced as endless possibility pulling in all directions.
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We manifest the good to the extent we become a singular being with a singular direction. Buber explains that imagination is the source of both good and evil. Endless possibility can be overwhelming, leading man to grasp at anything, distracting and busying himself, in order to not have to make a real, committed choice.
If occasional caprice is sin, and embraced caprice is wickedness, creative power in conjunction with will is wholeness. In so doing it redeems evil by transforming it from anxious possibility into creativity. Because of the temptation of possibility, one is not whole or good once and for all. Rather, this is an achievement that must be constantly accomplished. This process, Buber argues, is guided by the presentiment implanted in each of us of who we are meant to become. Seeming is the essential cowardice of man, the lying that frequently occurs in self-presentation when one seeks to communicate an image and make a certain impression.
The fullest manifestation of this is found in the propagandist, who tries to impose his own reality upon others. Mistrust takes it for granted that the other dissembles, so that rather than genuine meeting, conversation becomes a game of unmasking and uncovering unconscious motives. Buber criticizes Marx, Nietzsche and Freud for meeting the other with suspicion and perceiving the truth of the other as mere ideology.
1. Conceptual Background
In mistrust one presupposes that the other is likewise filled with mistrust, leading to a dangerous reserve and lack of candor. As it is a key component of his philosophic anthropology that one becomes a unified self through relations with others, Buber was also quite critical of psychiatrist Carl Jung and the philosophers of existence. Despite his criticisms of Freud and Jung, Buber was intensely interested in psychiatry and gave a series of lectures at the Washington School of Psychiatry at the request of Leslie H.
Often labeled an existentialist, Buber rejected the association. He asserted that while his philosophy of dialogue presupposes existence, he knew of no philosophy of existence that truly overcomes solitude and lets in otherness far enough. Sartre in particular makes self-consciousness his starting point. Indeed, self-consciousness is one of the main barriers to spontaneous meeting.
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Buber explains the inability to grasp otherness as perceptual inadequacy that is fostered as a defensive mechanism in an attempt to not be held responsible to what is addressing one. Only when the other is accorded reality are we held accountable to him; only when we accord ourselves a genuine existence are we held accountable to ourselves. Both are necessary for dialogue, and both require courageous confirmation of oneself and the other. In Buber's examples of non-dialogue, the twin modes of distance and relation lose balance and connectivity, and one pole overshadows the other, collapsing the distinction between them.
For example, mysticism absorption in the all turns into narcissism a retreat into myself , and collectivism absorption in the crowd turns into lack of engagement with individuals a retreat into individualism. This throws the self back into the attitude of solitude that Buber sought to escape. In his book Eclipse of God , Martin Buber explains that philosophy usually begins with a wrong set of premises: that an isolated, inquiring mind experiences a separate, exterior world, and that the absolute is found in universals.
He prefers the religious, which in contrast, is founded on relation, and means the covenant of the absolute with the particular. Religion addresses whole being, while philosophy, like science, fragments being. In distinction from the one, unlimited source, this manifold is limited, but has the choice and responsibility to effect the unification yihud of creation. In addition to defining Hasidism by its quest for unity, Buber contrasts the Hasidic insistence on the ongoing redemption of the world with the Christian belief that redemption has already occurred through Jesus Christ.
No original sin can prohibit man from being able to turn to God. However, Buber is not an unqualified voluntarist. As in his political essays, he describes himself as a realistic meliorist. One cannot simply will redemption. Man hallows creation by being himself and working in his own sphere. There is no need to be other, or to reach beyond the human.
The legends and anecdotes of the historic zaddikim Hasidic spiritual and community leaders that Buber recorded depict persons who exemplify the hallowing of the everyday through the dedication of the whole person. If hallowing is successful, the everyday is the religious, and there is no split between the political, social or religious spheres. Some commentators, such as Paul Mendes-Flohr and Maurice Friedman, view this as a turn away from his earlier preoccupation with mysticism in texts such as Ecstatic Confessions and Daniel: Dialogues on Realization Drawing on Hasidic thought, he argues that creation is not an obstacle on the way to God, but the way itself.
Principles require acting in a prescribed way, but the uniqueness of each situation and encounter requires each to be approached anew. He could not blindly accept laws but felt compelled to ask continually if a particular law was addressing him in his particular situation. While rejecting the universality of particular laws, this expresses a meta-principle of dialogical readiness. In general Buber had little historical or scholarly interest in Hasidism. He took Hasidism to be less a historical movement than a paradigmatic mode of communal renewal and was engaged by the dynamic meaning of the anecdotes and the actions they pointed to.
However, God can be known only in his relation to man, not apart from it. Thus, it is not accurate to say that God changes throughout the texts, but that the theophany, the human experience of God, changes.
Consequently, Buber characterizes his approach as tradition criticism, which emphasizes experiential truth and uncovers historical themes, in contrast to source criticism, which seeks to verify the accuracy of texts. Rather than smoothing over difficult or unclear passages, he preferred to leave them rough.