Barrett, (Denis) Cyril 1925-2003

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BARRETT, (Denis) Cyril 1925-2003

PERSONAL: Born May 9, 1925, in Dublin, Ireland; died of cancer December 30, 2003, in Dublin, Ireland; son of Denis Barrett (an assistant police commissioner), stepson of Evelyn Barrett. Education: Attended University College, Dublin, University of London, and Warburg Institute. Religion: Roman Catholic.

CAREER: Priest, educator, and writer. Entered Society of Jesus (Jesuits); ordained Roman Catholic priest, 1956; taught in France; University of Warwick, Coventry, England, lecturer, 1965-67, senior lecturer, 1967-72, reader in philosophy, 1972-92; Campion Hall, Oxford University, Oxford, England, reader, beginning 1992.


(Editor) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1966.

(Editor) Collected Papers on Aesthetics, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1966.

Op Art, Viking (New York, NY), 1970.

(Editor, with D. Petsch) Wladyslav Tatarkiewicz, History of Aesthetics (translation of Historia estetyki), three volumes, Mouton (The Hague, Netherlands), 1970–74.

An Introduction to Optical Art, Studio Vista (London, England), 1971.

(Editor) Irish Art in the Nineteenth Century: An Exhibition of Irish Victorian Art at Crawford Municipal School of Art, World Wide Books (Boston, MA), 1971.

The Crozier Memorial, Gifford & Craven (Ballycotton, Ireland), 1976.

(Author of text) Michael Farrell: A Monograph, Douglas Hyde Gallery (Dublin, Ireland), 1979.

(Author of text) Peter Sedgley, Paintings, Objects, Installations: 1963-1980, Kelpra-Studios (London, England), 1980.

(Editor, with Tom Winnifrith) The Philosophy of Leisure, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1991.

(Editor, with Tom Winnifrith) Leisure in Art and Literature, Macmillan (Basingstoke, England), 1992.

(With Camille Souter and Gerry Walker) Camille Souter, Gandon Editions (Ireland), 1997.

Contributor to The Tiger Rugs of Tibet, edited by Mimi Lipton, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 1988. Contributor to periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS: The late Cyril Barrett was a Jesuit scholar of art and philosophy with numerous books and articles to his name. His best-known work was one of his first—Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief, a collection drawn from the notes of students of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The executors of Wittgenstein's estate—all former students of the philosopher—and other students had previously guarded this unpublished material extremely closely, and critics commended the fact that Barrett was allowed access to it. Near the other end of his career, Barrett published his own analysis of Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, which Martin Warner described in a London Independent obituary as "long-awaited and sane."

Most of Barrett's books are about art, and he is remembered at the University of Warwick for his efforts to establish a modern art collection there. "As an art critic he was wide-ranging and formidable—his catalogue of nineteenth-century Irish Victorian Art is a classic of its kind—but also creative," noted a London Times contributor. Two of Barrett's best-known works of art criticism are Op Art, a book about the newly emerging style of art which Barrett championed, and an influential article titled "Are Bad Works of Art 'Works of Art'?"

Barrett was described as "a genuine polymath for whom everything provided a starting point for inquiry and reflection," by a Glasgow Herald contributor, the writer adding: "Beyond the loss of a particularly gifted individual, his death represents a further disconnection of philosophy from the wider world of humane learning and religious journeying. We may never see his like again."



Choice, October, 1992, C.G. Luckhardt, review of Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, p. 314.

Ethics, January, 1991, Elizabeth Telfer, review of The Philosophy of Leisure, p. 429.

Journal of Religion, April, 1993, Charles Elder, review of Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, p. 284.

Journal of Theological Studies, October, 1992, Fergus Kerr, review of Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, p. 744.

Religious Studies, December, 1992, Brian R. Clack, review of Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, p. 577.

Times Higher Education Supplement, May 1, 1992, Hans-Johann Glock, review of Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, p. 25.

Times Literary Supplement, March 6, 1992, John Hyman, review of Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief, p. 25.



Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), January 23, 2004, p. 24.

Independent (London, England), February 25, 2004, p. 34.

Times (London, England), January 15, 2004, p. 36.


Warwick University Web site, (November 5, 2004).*

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Barrett, (Denis) Cyril 1925-2003

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