Landing : Athabascau University

Clarifying the Details of Martin Buber's Existential Philosophy

Attached is a link to an article that I found extremely helpful. When reading about Existential Therapy in the textbook I found myself confused about existential philosopher Martin Buber's take on the I-Thou relationship. Specifically, I was unsure about the difference between the I/It concept and the I/Thou concept. This paper was written by John Scott, et al. about the ways in which Buber's philosophy could improve client-practitioner relationships in settings which rely on the medical model. He applies Buber's theory to what he and his colleagues have called the Healing Relationship Model. I have posted it here because his summary of Buber's philosophy is very clear, and a good resource for anyone else who wanted more information on it. It is located under the subheading "Martin Buber's Philosophy", however the way in which the paper applies this and other philosophies to client-practitioner relationships is quite interesting, and is worth a read.


  • Nisha, thanks for posting this article. I was also struggling with the I/Thou concept as it was expessed in the textbook. I was online researching it when I saw you post.  Within the article there was a description of I/it and I/Thou that really helped me see the difference between the two.  

    "One cannot say the word without relating to a world outside the self. These two basic words mark two ways of being in relation to the world. I-It relationships are characterized by experiencing and using objects. These are one-way relationships. The of I-It relations understands and experiences the world as one composed of objects locatable in space and time. This way of relating to the world makes no distinction between people and things"  .... "I-Thou relationships, on the other hand, are two-way relationships based in dialogue. One being encounters another with mutual awareness. I-Thou relationships are characterized by what Buber calls presentness. "


    This made quite a bit of sense to me.  As I consider the I/it relationship as one way it means there is not time or effort giving to responses of other individuals.  The I/Thou seen as a two way dialogue not only requires one to engage with the other person but to be activite and present in that relationship or communication for a dialogue to take place.  It really helped clarify the difference between the two types of relationships and grasp the deeper meaning of and "I/Thou" relationship.


    Leah Geiger March 22, 2018 - 8:57pm

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