Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy
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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.
even be, among the Existentialists whom we have not treated at length, figures that would prove more humanly appealing to the individual reader. These four, however, seem to me to be, intellectually speaking, the most considerable figures that the movement has yet brought forward. In any case they pose, for me, the chief questions that stand at issue for philosophy, and indeed for man himself, at this point in Western history. The fact that certain of these thinkers—Heidegger in particular—have
we have considered are, in any case, sufficient for our purposes here, where the aim has been not to provide a survey or compendium of Existentialism but rather to deal with the more central question: What is the meaning of Existentialism? Here we are using “meaning” not in its external sense, as a body of more or less organized information on what these philosophers are talking about, but in a more internal sense: What, we have asked, is really happening in our own historical existence that it
outpourings of a very melancholy temperament; yet they are the truthful record of what the Protestant soul must experience on the brink of the great Void. Protestant man is the beginning of the West’s fateful encounter with Nothingness—an encounter that was long overdue and is perhaps only now in the twentieth century reaching its culmination. 2. THE RATIONAL ORDERING OF SOCIETY Naturally, none of this was perceived at its beginning. In human history, as in the individual human life, the
itself. He cannot pin down this anxiety, cannot attach it to any definite object, event, or person; it is the revelation of void or non-being. A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, In word, or sigh, or tear— All the German idealism with which poor Coleridge’s head was crammed had nothing to say to him about this experience; it did not even provide the terms necessary for its philosophic
Unscientific Postscript. While he sat one Sunday afternoon in the Fredriksberg Garden in Copenhagen smoking a cigar as was his habit, and turning over a great many things in his mind, he suddenly reflected that he had as yet made no career for himself whereas everywhere around him he saw the men of his age becoming celebrated, establishing themselves as renowned benefactors of mankind. They were benefactors because all their efforts were directed at making life easier for the rest of mankind,