Can you please provide some suggestions for a good supplementary text for Martin Buber's "I & Thou?" In spite of our philosophical backgrounds, a friend and I are getting a bit lost trying to comprehend it. We are not reading this for part of a college class, so do not know of any professors to ask.

In Between Man and Man, Martin Buber recounts the following story, which he takes to illuminate the experience at the heart of I and Thou:

"When I was eleven years of age, spending the summer on my grandparents' estate, I used, as often as I could do it unobserved, to steal into the stable and gently stroke the neck of my darling, a broad dapplegray horse. It was not a casual delight but a great, certainly friendly, but also deeply stirring happening. If I am to explain it now, beginning from the still very fresh memory of my hand, I must say that what I experienced in touch with the animal was the Other, the immense otherness of the Other, which, however, did not remain strange like the otherness of the ox and the ram, but rather let me draw near and touch it. When I stroked the mighty mane, sometimes marvelously smooth-combed, at other times just as astonishingly wild, and felt the life beneath my hand, it was as though the element of vitality itself bordered on my skin, something that was not I, was certainly not akin to me, palpably the other, not just another, really the Other itself; and yet it let me approach, confided itself to me, placed itself elementally in the relation of Thou and Thou with me. The horse, even when I had not begun by pouring oats for him into the manger, very gently raised his massive head, ears flicking, then snorted quietly, as a conspirator gives a signal meant to be recognizable only by his fellow-conspirator; and I was approved. But once--I do not know what came over the child, at any rate it was childlike enough--it struck me about the stroking, what fun it gave me, and suddenly I became conscious of my hand. The game went on as before, but something changed, it was no longer the same thing. And the next day, after giving him a rich feed, when I stroked my friend's head he did not raise his head. A few years later, when I thought back to the incident, I no longer supposed that the animal had noticed my defection. But at the time I considered myself judged" (p. 11).

Since Buber's work, in accordance with the phenomenological tradition to which he may be taken to belong, seeks to illuminate fundamental structures of human experience, one way to begin to grasp the concepts explicated in I and Thou is to try to recreate the sort of experience that Buber claims led him to recognize the relation between I and Thou at the heart of that work. (This is not meant to be a flip response to the question, but rather to suggest a way to begin to engage, experientially, with his claims, in just the way that phenomenology, generally, is meant to bring people back to the things themselves, the fundamental structures of human experience that are obscured to us because we take them for granted.)

But experience alone will probably not suffice to illuminate I and Thou. There are numerous books on Buber's thought. The following books were recommended to me by Professor Michael Morgan of Indiana University, an expert on Jewish Philosophy (certain of the books seem to me to be more 'academic' than others; the first one listed seems to me to be the most accessible, and the others are listed in what I take to be ascending order of difficulty--although I haven't been able to read through all the books myself, only to scan certain pages on the Web: Malcolm Diamond, Martin Buber: Jewish Existentialist; Laurence Silberstein, "Martin Buber's Social and Religious Thought: Alienation and the Quest for Meaning; Paul Mendes-Flohr, From Mysticism to Dialogue: Martin Buber's Transformation of German Social Thought.

I hope that these suggestions prove useful: I wish you good luck grappling with Buber's difficult, fascinating text!

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