TOUCHSTONES OF REALITY: Explorations in Meaning and Action by Maurice Friedman

TOUCHSTONES OF REALITY: Explorations in Meaning and Action

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A distillation of ""a philosophy of life"" by means of autobiographical excursion, theological overview, and existential precept. Friedman, who is best known as an expositor of the thought of Martin Buber, assays his spiritual growth from conscientious objector in World War II through an ascetic mysticism to an interest in Hasidic studies and existentialism to what now is a cluster of ethical commitments without necessary belief in God and, indeed, with an explicit rejection of systematic thought. Friedman gives an excellent overview of Eastern thought, explaining his rejection of mysticism as a refusal to choose between ""exclusivist truth and hopeless relativism,"" between inner and outer worlds. He dwells persuasively on the meaning of dialogue, trust, interaction, and peace; but the book is far from fully inspirational because it pledges ""a new social ethic"" (which turns out to be ""building community and peace where we are"") without confronting the relationship between social and individual agonies. Thus Friedman's ""modern biblical morality"" remains at best a gloss for doing one's own thing and striving after what are very much ""inner"" virtues. The notion of ""touchstones of reality"" dominating the book is in the end opposed to the idea of ""a comprehensive world-view,"" which Friedman thinks one can avoid. His own view is eclectic, empirical, and ""existential"" in a way which poses, not solves, the problem of subjectivism and relativism. A multi-faceted touchstone for students of religious and moral questions.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1971
Publisher: Dutton