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for the means of human expression but with finished and
delicate power. For this reason, though we might call
/ and Thou a " philosophical-religious poem ", it belongs
essentially to no single specialised class of learned
work. It has a direct appeal to all those who are
interested in living religious experience rather than in
theological debates and the rise and fall of philosophical
schools. It has first and foremost to be judged on its
intrinsic merits—by the impact, that is to say, which it
makes on our actual, responsible life, as persons and as
groups, in the modern world.
This immediate value of Buber's work becomes clear
if we consider its main thesis. There is, Buber shows,
a radical difference between a man's attitude to other
men and his attitude to things. The attitude to other
men is a relation between persons, to things it is a
connexion with objects. In the personal relation one
subject — I — confronts another subject—Thou*-, in
the connexion with things the subject contemplates and
experiences an object. These two attitudes represent
the basic twofold situation of human life, the former
constituting the. " world of Thou ", and the latter the
"world of It"
The content and relation of these two worlds is the
theme of / and Thou. The other person, the Thou, ,is
shown to be a reality—that is, it is given to me, but it is
not bounded by me: " Thou has no bounds " ; the
1 Though the second person singular pronoun has almost dis-
appeared from modern English usage, it remains in one important
sphere—in prayer. By its retention in the English text, therefore,
far from suggesting an obscure situation, it keeps the whole thought
iii the personal and responsible sphere in which alone it is truly to be