Body and Thou

Philosophy International Journal 6 (S1):1-5 (2023)
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Martin Buber has always made it clear that his dialogic principle is not to be treated as an abstract conception but an ontological reality. But admittedly, in I And Thou he could only point to such reality and could not properly present it in discursive prose. However there are instances in the text where he strives to do the latter. One particular instance is where he elaborates the emergence of consciousness of “I”. Through this elaboration, what Buber has tried to point at is the bringing forth of the primary word ‘I-It’ forming part of his dialogic principle, as it ‘emerges round about’ the perceptual consciousness realised in body as some sort of a ‘primitive function of knowledge’. However, this still amounts only to an abstract conception, and not to a description of ontological reality as Buber would have aspired for. Hence the thought: what if there exists an endeavour carried out independently of Buber’s work, nevertheless in the same spirit as Buber but without his notorious mixing up of philosophy and religion? There indeed has been such an Existential-phenomenological take on embodiment and perception by the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as is laid out in his magnum opus Phenomenology of Perception. In the present paper we will explicate this interesting coincidence, thereby honouring Buber’s aspiration for ontological status to his dialogic principle, at the same time demonstrating how existentially resonating and ontologically converging the thought of these two great thinkers’ have been, though they had totally different intellectual pursuits and concerns.



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Sayeeda Rahman
Université paris 1

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