Dynamic Communication: an Analytic and Constructive Study on the Problem of Religious Communication, based on Martin Buber's Philosophy of Dialogue

Christina Runquist

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


In the present work, I study various aspects of Martin Buber's model of how a human being can communicate, in a meaningful way, his or her religious experiences to and with another human being. My method has aspects of both conceptual analysis and phenomenologial description. I focus on the individual partners, their mutual relationships and the religious message. Buber's model is based on the conceptual opposition between 'I-Thou' and 'I-It'. The I-Thou-attitude is characterized as an immediate recognition, which engages the whole of man. The I-It-attitude is characterized as an attitude which is mediated, directed to particulars and which can never engage the whole of man. According to Buber, the i n d i vi d u a l becomes a real I, a p e r s o n, only by way of an I-Thou-relationship, of reciprocity. He describes the phenomenon of what I call "dynamic dialogue" which is analyzed with respect to various conceptual elements, viz., as 'genuine', 'powerful', 'emotional', 'intellecual' and 'actdirected'. With regard to attaining mutual intellectual understanding both on an intuitive and on a discursive level, Buber discerns three different "methods": 1. embracing and identifying with; 2. accepting the other as a subject and not only as an object; 3. allowing one's own horizon to be challenged by the other's horizon into a fusion of horizons within the oscillation between I-Thou and I-It, which implies a development of a new understanding of the other and of what is communicated. I have found Buber's statements to be rooted in "ordinary language". Relative to this everyday frame of reference, the "transcending" dimension of religous language is understood on the basis of a human way of living and on the basis of human thoughts and emotions. Buber's verbal message about God is that God is really there as our eternal Thou. Religious understanding is inter-personal and is expressed verbally and in action in inter-personal categories. This implies a way of speaking meaningfully about God, irrespectively of whether God exists or really possesses the attributes ascribed to him. Buber's view offers a common basis both for belief in God and atheism. This position presupposes a theory of religious pluralism. The main point of this theory, which is based on Buber's point of view, is that all personal relationships with God have their essential "core" in common when confessional interpretations are "bracketed". Buber presents religious life as fundamentally constituted by the attitude of love. The theory is o n e way of understanding the phenomenon that different people adhere to different religions. It entails a criticism of the e x c l u s i v e claims of different religions, and an understanding based on common features. It is also a criticism of what may be called the i n c l u s i v e claim that different religions are reflections of a certain primary religion. The structure of the theory is a n t h r o p o c e n t r i c (the staring-point is man's experiences, wants and behaviour), e g a l i s t i c (it regards all religions as equivalent in value) and e s s e n t i a l i s t i c (it assumes a common phenomenological core of all religious experiences and behaviour).
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1998 Sep 25
Print ISBNs91 7217 009-3
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1998-09-25
Time: 10:15
Place: Institutionen för konst- och musikvetenskap, hörsal 314

External reviewer(s)

Name: Barbosa da Silva, António
Title: [unknown]
Affiliation: [unknown]


The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Church History (015017061)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Religious Studies


  • Love
  • Phenomenology
  • Martin Buber
  • Religion
  • Meaning
  • Dialogue
  • Ordinary Language
  • Theology
  • Teologi

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