Monday, April 13, 2015

I-it or I-thou? It matters

Buber’s picture of encounters, so I argue in Chapter 2, has ‘held us captive’ by making us think that any human encounter which is not characteristized [sic] by a certain degree of reciprocity—which is not suffused by affection or highly inter-subjective—is sub-personal (for Buber, an ‘I-It’ form of relation). Though Buber is more nuanced in what he actually wrote (particularly in the later essays, which serve to qualify his pioneering treatise of 1917), the legacy of his strongly polarized scheme is essentially to idealize encounters. And the effect of this is to dismiss the original encounter between mother and ‘newone’ [his word for the entity in the womb] as in some way ‘inauthentic’, in turn ensuring that we miss the significance of the condition of hiddenness in which human beings first make their entrances in the world.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, pages xii–xiii

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