Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy

Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy

William Barrett

Language: English

Pages: 314

ISBN: 0385031386

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Widely recognized as the finest definition of existentialist Philosophy, this book introduced existentialism to America in 1958. Barrett discusses the views of 19th and 20th century existentialists Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre and interprets the impact of their thinking on literature, art, and philosophy.

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It is in this light too that the historical rise of capitalism must be understood: the capitalist emerges from feudal society as the enterprising and calculating mind who must organize production rationally to show a favorable balance of profits over costs. Where feudalism is concrete and organic, with man dominated by the image of the land, capitalism is abstract and calculating in spirit, and severs man from the earth. In capitalism, everything follows from this necessity of rationally

demonstrated rationally) had not dawned upon the mind of Biblical man. If he hoped at all to escape mortality it was on the basis of personal trust that his Creator might raise him once again from the dust. All of this carries us beyond Arnold’s simple contrasting of moral man with intellectual man, though his basic distinction is left intact and in fact deepened. To sum up: (1) The ideal man of Hebraism is the man of faith; for Hellenism, at least as it came to ultimate philosophic expression

accurately rendered as “men of magic;” and indeed the sage, the virtuous man, he who could command himself and therefore others, must have struck earlier mankind as something of a magician. In any case, magic and alchemy recur throughout the whole course of the Romantic movement, always as the deep archetypal symbols of aspiration toward a higher and fuller level of Being. Even Goethe in his old age, by then the cool and classic Olympian, introduces into the Second Part of Faust an alchemical

way of being a man—for Kierkegaard personally it was the only way—and to have this way illumined, to be summoned to its tasks, is also to be called on to be a man, however divergent our own choice of a way may be. Kierkegaard the man, however, is not an ingratiating figure in everyone’s eyes. During his own lifetime he met with an unfriendly press and he is not exactly without one even now. He was a bizarre and eccentric figure, to be sure, and his physical appearance was no help to him in his

judgment about what is the case. The trouble with this view is that it cannot take account of other manifestations of truth. For example, we speak of the “truth” of a work of art. A work of art in which we find truth may actually have in it no propositions that are true in this literal sense. The truth of the work of art is in its being a revelation, but that revelation does not consist in a statement or group of statements that are intellectually correct. The momentous assertion that Heidegger

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