Kaplan Buber Whitehead (An Unpublished Diary Entry)


Mel Scult kindly sent as a comment to my previous post about Whitehead this little gem from the Kaplan archive. I post this for now unpublished diary entry with Mel’s generous permission. While it tells us more about Kaplan and Buber, it indicates as well the sense that Whitehead was somewheron Kaplan’s philosophical radar.

This is how Mel set up the diary entry in his comment to JPP:

Kaplan had little to say about Whitehead in the diary but I have found a reference. For your consideration. Kaplan was at the Hebrew University for two years in the thirties. In his diary, written in Hebrew at that time and translated here by the late Rabbi Nahum Waldman, z”l, Kaplan writes of his first meeting with Buber. [ Not quite an I-Thou experience for Kaplan ].In thinking over Buber’s I-thou, Kaplan is reminded of a statement from Whitehead which he believes expresses a idea similar to Buber’s. Kaplan however is less interested in the“mystery” of the I-thou than in its concrete function in our lives.

This is the diary entry:

A Frustrating Meeting with Martin Buber.
Tuesday, April 12, 1938.

Yesterday I visited Martin Buber. He was appointed Professor of Philosophy of Society at the same time that I was appointed to teach education. For a time he was the candidate for the teaching of education, but it seems there was opposition to him because of the mystical line in his approach to Judaism. Still, it was impossible that they not find a place in the University as he is one of the greats of our generation even if it is not so easy to fit him in the framework of our familiar values.

I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with my meeting with him yesterday, which was the first. In our conversation it fell upon me to be the stimulus, while he was simple reacting to my questions and comments. The discussion moved to the idea he expressed in the book that was translated into English, I and Thou. It seemed to me that he is striving to express–in a deep manner–with regard to the relationship of one human to another the same idea which Whitehead expresses in his book Science and the Modern Mind, when he says, “The concrete enduring entities are organisms, so that the plan of the whole influence the very characters of the various subordinate organisms which enter into it.” But all of this is theoretical: he has in effect never documented the possibilities between the I and Thou with respect to our discussion. He did not ask me one question with regard to my views, my goals, my work. The attainment of practical results is, it seems, a simple matter that only cheap pragmatists like me demand. The matters of mystery do not need such pragmatism.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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1 Response to Kaplan Buber Whitehead (An Unpublished Diary Entry)

  1. dmfant says:

    “matters of mystery do not need such pragmatism” as in don’t need to be lived out (off the page)?

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