Martin Buber Shaped German-Jewish Thought

The great Jewish thinker Martin Buber (1878-1965), who in his pedagogical writings advocated the freedom of human development through interpersonal encounter and communication, is one of the great thinkers who influenced Constantin Brunner.

To get an idea of Buber’s theory principles, check out the following video in which Professor Moshe Halbertal (Institute of Jewish Studies, University of Antwerp), talks about “German-Jewish Thought and its Afterlife: A Tenuous Legacy” at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2017:

The Jewish thinker Martin Buber has become an influence in many disciplines at the beginning of the 20th century. Born in Vienna in 1878, Martin  Buber had shaped German-Jewish thought until his death in Jerusalem in 1965.

At the core of his contemplation were the “Elements of the Intermediate” (Buber 1992), which he founded for philosophical anthropology (the “doctrine of man”). Reflections on interpersonal encounter and communication (the “dialogue principle”) influenced not only the humanities in general but also great philosophers like Constantin Brunner and sociology and educational sciences in general.

Above all, his view of the relationship between teacher and pupil is decisive for pedagogy. With the view “The educational relationship is a purely dialogical” (Weir 1989), Buber establishes a very close relationship between the educator and the pupil, that is not oriented towards authoritarian dogmas, but to the freedom of human development by Personal Encounters that can shape the character of the child. “Pedagogically fruitful is not the pedagogical intention, but the pedagogical encounter” (Buber 1986).

In the turmoil of the Third Reich, Buber offered the Jewish community spiritual support and guidance regarding inequality and violence through his public appearances, until he had to start emigrating to Jerusalem in 1938 through prohibitions on speech and teaching and the existential threat. Like many great thinkers, including Constantin Brunner, who had already left Germany to stay in the Netherlands, Martin Buber was forced to leave Germany behind. In Israel itself, he stood up throughout his life for Arab-Jewish understanding and called for reconciliation with the German people.

The examination of Buber’s writings does not teach a doctrine, but rather an existential attitude to life and to the relationship with one’s fellow man. By referring to the name of Martin Buber, This Constantin Brunner website advocates deriving daily all actions from the “self to you,” to understand the human encounter as the basis of all pedagogical activity, and in principle to accept “the other.”

Just like today, when we are threatened by increasing insecurity in an insecure globalizing world, the days in pre-war Germany were filled with insecurity and freedom of thought and speech was severely at risk. Let’s hope those threats will never threaten us in the way they did in those days!

“For the true educator not only has individual functions of his hesitation in mind, such as the one who only intends to teach him certain knowledge and skills, but it is always up to him to do the whole man, and to do it to the whole human being, both his or her own. According to current factual in which he lives before you, as well as his possibility, as what can become of him.” (Buber 1986). Read also: Moral Christian Hypocrisy.