Martin Buber Biography

(Religious Philosopher Known for His Philosophy of Dialogue)

Birthday: February 8, 1878 (Aquarius)

Born In: Vienna, Austria

Martin Buber was an influential twentieth century Jewish philosopher and an outstanding religious thinker, political activist, educator, essayist, translator and editor who re-defined religious existentialism through his ‘philosophy of dialogue’. Although he was born in Austria, Martin Buber spent a major part of his life in Israel and Germany. Buber was a cultural Zionist who championed the cause of Jewish cultural renewal through his study of Hasidic Judaism. He challenged the works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dilthey, Simmel and Heidegger through his writings and was a source of immense influence to Emmanuel Lévinas. Buber along with Franz Rosenzwig translated the Bible from Hebrew to German as well as wrote numerous other religious and Biblical studies. Buber was a leading adult educationist who developed the philosophy of focus of education of character and initiated the establishment of Jewish education centers in Germany and teacher-training centers in Israel.. Following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, he became a well-known Israeli philosopher. He was a peace advocate and a vegetarian. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times.

Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In February

Died At Age: 87


Spouse/Ex-: Paula Winkler

father: Carl Buber

mother: Paula Winkler

children: Rafael Buber

Born Country: Austria

Quotes By Martin Buber Philosophers

Died on: June 13, 1965

place of death: Jerusalem, Israel

Ancestry: Austrian German, Ukrainian Austrian

City: Vienna, Austria

Founder/Co-Founder: Ihud party

More Facts

awards: 1951 - Goethe award
1953 - Peace Prize award
1958 - Israel Prize award

1961 - Bialik Prize award for Jewish thought
In 1963
he won the Erasmus Prize in Amsterdam.

  • 1

    What is Martin Buber's concept of "I-Thou?"

    Martin Buber's concept of "I-Thou" relationship emphasizes the importance of genuine, direct, and authentic relationships between individuals, where each person acknowledges and respects the other's unique existence and experiences.

  • 2

    What is Martin Buber's most famous work and its main theme?

    Martin Buber's most famous work is "I and Thou," where he explores the nature of relationships and the distinction between an "I-Thou" relationship based on mutuality and an "I-It" relationship based on objectification.

  • 3

    How did Martin Buber contribute to existentialist philosophy?

    Martin Buber's work influenced existentialist philosophy by emphasizing the significance of human relationships, dialogue, and personal responsibility in shaping one's existence and meaning in the world.

  • 4

    What is Martin Buber's perspective on spirituality and religion?

    Martin Buber viewed spirituality as a deeply personal and relational experience, emphasizing the importance of encountering the divine through genuine relationships with others and the world around us.

Childhood & Early Life

Martin Buber was born on February 8, 1878, in Vienna, Austria-Hungary to Carl Buber and Elise née Wurgast. His parents separated when he was a small child, and he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents, Solomon and Adele Buber, in Lemberg.

His grandfather was a scholar of Midrash and Rabbinic Literature. He produced the first modern editions of rabbinic Midrash literature and was a much-respected member of the traditional Jewish society.

Young Martin was pampered by his grandparents and had a comfortable childhood. He developed a deep love for literature and learned several languages, including Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, German, and English. 

He was home-schooled and also attended the Franz Joseph Gymnasium. As a young man, he went on to attend the universities of Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig, and Zürich, where he studied philosophy, art history, philology, and German studies.

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Later Years

Martin Buber joined the Zionist movement in 1898 and participated in congresses. The following year, he met a young woman named Paula Winkler and soon moved to Berlin with her. In Berlin, the couple met and befriended the anarchist Gustav Landauer.

Buber worked closely with Theodor Herzl, who appointed him as the editor of his journal Die Welt. Herzl died in 1904, and Buber took a position as literary editor for the publishing house Ruetten & Loening. Buber published a book featuring his retelling of the stories of Rabbi Nachman, a prominent figure of Eastern European Hasidism.

As an editor, he corresponded with numerous well-known figures in literary circles. He edited a forty-volume series of social studies, titled Die Gesellschaft. Considered one of his most ambitious projects, the volumes appeared between 1906 and 1912.

He moved to Heppenheim/Bergstrasse in 1916. During this period, Buber supported the “Great War,” believing it to be a 'world historical mission' for Germany. His enthusiasm was severely criticized by his friend Gustav Landauer. 

During this time, he developed a close intellectual companionship with Franz Rosenzweig, who recruited him as a lecturer for his free Jewish adult education center (Freies jüdisches Lehrhaus). Buber also worked on a project to produce a new translation of the Bible into German.

In 1933, Martin Buber was dismissed from the university by the Nazi forces. He eventually went on to teach at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the ensuing years, he was active in the field of social philosophy and traveled extensively in Europe and the United States, giving lectures in prominent educational institutions.

Zionistic Views & Hasidism

Martin Buber viewed Zionism as a movement with potential for social and spiritual enrichment. He believed that by returning to its roots, it was possible to create a more just society.

He later became involved in the Jewish Hasidim movement. He admired how Hasidic communities integrated their religious beliefs with their daily life practices. He had a strong faith in Hasidic values and advocated for Zionism to adopt the same. At a certain stage, he disassociated himself from Zionist organizational work.

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He wanted Zionism to lead to the creation of an exemplary society, one in which Jews and Arabs would peacefully coexist. He became involved in the creation of the organization Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) in the 1920s and later on co-founded the Ihud party.

As a scholar and translator of Hasidic lore, he viewed Hasidism as a way of life that emphasized community and meaning in common activities. However, his interpretation of Hasidism has been criticized by other scholars.

Major Works

Martin Buber’s Ich und Du, usually translated as I and Thou, is his best-known book. In this work, he states that human life primarily finds its meaningfulness in relationships. According to him, all human relationships ultimately bring the individual into a relationship with God. Originally written in German in 1923, it was translated into English in 1937.

Family & Personal Life

Martin Buber met a Catholic lady named Paula Winkler in 1899. They fell in love and got married even though she could not be married according to Jewish rites as a non-Jew. She later left Catholicism and converted to Judaism. The couple had two children: a son named Rafael Buber and a daughter named Eva Strauss-Steinitz.

Paula died in 1958. Buber died on June 13, 1965, aged 87.

Facts About Martin Buber

Martin Buber was known for his love of nature and often found inspiration in the natural world, incorporating elements of nature into his philosophical teachings.

Buber had a deep appreciation for storytelling and believed in the power of dialogue to create meaningful connections between individuals.

Buber was a proponent of interfaith dialogue and believed in the importance of finding common ground between different religious traditions.
In addition to his philosophical work, Buber was also a talented translator and worked on bringing important texts from various languages into German for a wider audience to appreciate.

See the events in life of Martin Buber in Chronological Order

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