Buber and Rosenstock were friends, and allies in certain matters, but Rosenstock had profound objections to Buber’s thought. Cristaudo ( Religion, Redemption and Revolution: The New Speech Thinking Revolution of Franz Rozenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy , 107 ) characterizes as the difference between “the thinker who takes time, speech, and history as the triadic rubric under which he operates and the thinker who pauses at ‘the encounter’ of the I and Thou .” Buber’s mysticism doesn’t touch the struggles and catastrophes that make history, which are central to Rosenstock.

Rosenstock himself, characteristically, gave a grammatical critique of Buber, in a profound passage that Cristaudo quotes from a 1962 lecture, “St Augustine by the Sea”: “since [Buber] put the ‘I’ first, people have not understood there . . . are not two people, only, but that you begin as a ‘Thou,’ and then grow up to be . . . an ‘I,’ and then later a ‘we.’ It’s terribly important that you should see that you yourself have to run through the stages of grammar in every one act. When you are integrated into a societ, you begin with understanding the command. In this moment, an imperative . . . Somebody has to extinguish the fire, so we all shout, ‘Fire, fire, fire!’ Somebody who is obedient to this call, runs out, brings the water hose, and begins to extinguish the fire. Others remain indifferent, and this act does not touch them, and they remain outside history so to speak, because they do not feel that they should respond” (107). History is not made simply by being there; it is made by those who respond to a summons from a Thou.

Rosenstock closes with these comments: “Responses make people. Anybody who hears the vocative, ‘John,’ and who follows the vocative is in the state of being born as a person. But he has to take upon himself this humiliating experience, that somebody else creates him into what he has to do. We are not self-makers of ourselves” (107).