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Buber's I/thou Relationship

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Brian Steves

Intro to Ethics

Pre-Test Essay #3

Similar to Kant's means/end relationship, I saw Buber's I/Thou Relationship as a telling sign for the relationships in my life. I, as well as, I'm sure, many others, have relationships where they see others as a means to an end, or as an it, rather than who they truly are. Now, I say this, with no intention of sounding rude or crass, but rather, to be realistic. As it's clear that in some relationships, there is no real substance between two people, but rather it is a relationship of use. Where one party is simply involved with the other for what they need, and have no true emotional feelings toward them.

These kinds of relationships are common in the everyday world. Take a mechanic, for example, your car breaks down, and you take it to a mechanic to get it fixed. Your relationship with the person fixing your car is of means, or an it relationship. You have no emotion or care towards the person, you simply need his services, as you yourself are incapable of fixing your own car. However, this relationship is mutually, "it", as the mechanic's relationship with you extends simply as far as him needing for the services he provides.

These I/It relationships are everywhere in the world, and they are not always necessarily a bad thing, as quite often, each person is content with using the other as a means. In the above case, one is a means to a fixed car, while the other is a means to getting paid for a service. In fact, these I/It relationships are nearly the foundation of business in America. However, there does arise problems in personal relationships, when they reach an "I/It" scenario.

In a personal relationship, a marriage, a courting, a friendship, or a family member, seeing the other in terms of this "It" idea is bad. As these relationships are supposed to take on the I/You phase, where each member of the relationship sees the other as a whole, important being. When this does not happen, it often causes problems. There is a need for every person, and often times those close to us can provide those needs. While that is acceptable, to an extent, when one lets that person become seen as nothing more than an "It" it becomes a problem.

I have found a relationship in my own life, where seeing a family member as an "It" has caused animosity. For a short period of my childhood, without realization, I began to treat my parents as "Its." While I'm sure every immature kid has done the same at one point or another, it is truly the most glaring relationship that stuck out in my mind in relation to the readings. Your parents provide everything for you as a child, and to an extent I think everyone becomes a bit spoiled, because they expect things



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