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Philosophical Profiles in the Theory of Communication

With a Foreword by Richard J. Bernstein and an Afterword by John Durham Peters

Edited By Jason Hannan

Philosophical Profiles in the Theory of Communication is the first book to draw systematic attention to the theme of communication in twentieth-century academic philosophy. It covers a broad range of philosophical perspectives on communication, including those from analytic philosophy, pragmatism, critical theory, phenomenology, hermeneutics, feminism, psychoanalysis, systems theory, and more. What emerges is a vital, long-neglected story about the theme of communication in late modern academic philosophy. Each chapter features a «profile» of a particular philosophical figure, with a brief intellectual biography, an overview of that figure’s contribution to communication theory, and a critical assessment of the significance of that contribution. The clear and accessible organization of the volume makes it ideal for courses in both philosophy and communication studies.


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5 Martin Buber: Bearing Witness to an Experience ROB ANDERSON AND KENNETH N. CISSNA 127


5 Martin Buber Bearing Witness to an Experience ROB ANDERSON AND KENNETH N. CISSNA ________________________________________ I must philosophize; there is no other way to my goal, but my goal itself cannot be grasped philosophically. […] To bear witness to an experience is my basic intention, but I am not primarily concerned with exhorting men; rather, with showing that ex- perience to be one accessible to all in some measure, in some form. —Martin Buber1 Martin Buber was one of the leading philosophers of communication of the twentieth century, although he denied the label philosopher.2 The great Russian literary and cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin even called Buber “the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century.”3 Buber was not, however, a systematic, mainstream, or “normal” philosopher. As Laurence Silberstein has argued, Buber is better regarded as what Richard Rorty called an “edifying philosopher,” who seeks to critique the normal philosophy of the day and is more interested in entering into conversation than in creating a new, more accurate representation of some eternal essence.4 Sidestepping systematization, Buber insisted, “I witnessed for experience and appealed to experience.”5 He spoke from his experience and to the experience of others, trying to “point a way beyond the perennial alienation that characterizes modern life” (106): I have no teaching. I only point to something. I point to reality, I point to something in reality that had not or had too little been seen. I take him who listens to me by the hand and lead him to the...

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