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Irrational Man

Barrett on existentialism and pragmatism

I’ve been reading some mid-twentieth-century social criticism in preparation for a graduate course next semester and just finished William Barrett’s classic account of existentialism, Irrational Man (1958). Throughout I was struck by the lucidity of Barrett’s exposition, never more so than in his very brief treatment of William James. I assign James’s Pragmatism to my graduate seminar but students often struggle not just with James’s argument but with his general philosophical perspective. And, truth be told, try though I do to explain James as a pragmatist, his book on the subject often doesn’t seem that pragmatic to me, at least Read more