Like other words in current philosophical use, such as historicism and subjectivism, irrationalism is an exceedingly imprecise term that is employed with a wide variety of meanings and implications. Consequently, any attempt to elucidate its sense within the confines of a clear-cut and tidy formula quickly runs into difficulties. It might be said, for instance, that to describe a writer as an irrationalist is to speak of him as denying the authority of reason. But how is the notion of "reason" itself to be understood, and in what respects is its authority supposed to be flouted? It would scarcely be sufficient to reply that denial of reason consists in illogicality or confusion of thought, or that it manifests itself in a tendency to arrive at unacceptable conclusions; for this would apply to the work of many thinkers to whom the label "irrationalist" is clearly inapplicable. In addition, the suggestion fails to identify the primary point of calling a writer an irrationalist. A man may be accused of irrationality if he is prone to make mistakes of a particular kind or to indulge in invalid reasoning; but it is only insofar as he maintains some specific doctrine concerning such things as the status and role of reason or the relevance of rational standards within various domains of experience or inquiry that he can be called an irrationalist. In other words, attention is focused not on an unwitting failure to conform to norms of generally recognized validity, but on the explicit repudiation, or putting into question, of such norms in the light of certain considerations or in relation to certain contexts.
A more promising approach to the understanding of irrationalism is the historical. One might try to understand irrationalism by contrasting it with that "belief in reason," that faith in the application of mathematical and scientific procedures, which was so prominent in the thought and speculation of seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century Europe and which provided the inspiration for the Enlightenment. Such a proposal, however, runs the risk of invoking generalities as vague as they are misleading. Seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century theorists interpreted the ideal of rationality in widely differing ways, and they assumed it or sought to realize it at various levels of inquiry—metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and political. René Descartes, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Benedict de Spinoza, and David Hume shared the conviction that in their speculations concerning the nature of the world and our knowledge of it they were conforming to a course acceptable to reason and were applying methods that reason prescribed. But they differed fundamentally concerning both what constituted rational procedure and what types of discovery such procedure was capable of achieving. Similar disagreements may also be discerned at the other levels of investigation mentioned.
The diversity of opinion attributable to thinkers who all held a general belief in rationality puts in doubt the notion that irrationalism can be neatly and unambiguously identified by reference to its rejection of a single set of assumptions allegedly shared by philosophers associated with the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, the ideas of those thinkers most typically classified as irrationalists did develop to a large extent in reaction to the ambitious claims made on behalf of reason by Enlightenment theorists and their nineteenth-century successors, however widely such claims may have varied in actual content and formulation. That the world is in some sense a rational or harmonious whole, that the human mind is capable of comprehending it, and that there exist certain communicable and teachable methods by means of which its inner workings can be revealed; that this knowledge can be systematically utilized in a manner that will insure the continuous improvement of human society in the foreseeable future; that man is by nature a reasonable and progressive being whose potentialities can be realized through the removal of ignorance and the creation of institutions based upon principles of justice—it has been against views like these that irrationalist philosophies have, in different ways, characteristically protested. Vociferous insistence upon the limitations and weaknesses of reason followed an equally vociferous insistence upon its possibilities and powers.
The belief that reality, at least in its innermost nature, represents an intelligible, ordered system whose fundamental character is accessible to the human intellect, is an ancient one; in philosophy, it dates at least from Plato. During its long history it has admittedly been subjected to a number of widely differing interpretations, ranging from the animistic or religious to the mathematical or scientific. Yet the notion of some kind of comprehensible pattern or rational structure to which all that exists or happens can finally be shown to conform retained its hold. From this point of view the world we belong to is not an alien world; on the contrary, it is one in which, by virtue of our own rationality, we can feel at home.
There have, however, been thinkers to whom the consoling idea of an intelligible world has seemed less acceptable. Thus even in the seventeenth century, the heyday of Cartesian rationalism, Blaise Pascal was questioning the conception of reality as a logically coherent whole, transparent to human reason and in which everything, including man himself, can be seen to have its necessary place: "Too much clarity darkens," he wrote with reference to Descartes's famous "clear and distinct ideas." Forcibly impressed both by the contingent character of human existence in an unfathomable universe and by the inadequacies of human reason, Pascal had little use for rational theology with its pretended proofs of God; he eschewed all such forms of ratiocination in favor of an inward religious faith that transcended ordinary methods of argument and justification and that was beyond demonstration.
the world as will
The intense dissatisfaction and disquiet Pascal experienced when he contemplated the world and our situation within it has been echoed in the works of many subsequent writers, although they have not always shared the religious convictions that ultimately sustained him. For some it has appeared necessary simply to acquiesce in the realization that reality, far from representing an intellectually satisfying or morally acceptable system, is in truth devoid of all rational meaning or purpose and that salvation can only be reached through a complete liberation from its trammels. Such an attitude found perhaps its most eloquent and forceful exponent in Arthur Schopenhauer. In Schopenhauer's conception of existence there was an explicit and uncompromising reversal of the traditional approach. He made it his object to show, not that the world is governed according to some beneficent teleological principle or that it is the embodiment of certain fundamental rational categories, but that, on the contrary, what lies at its center is something antithetical to all reason and value, namely, a blind unconscious force or striving he termed "will." It is this that constitutes the metaphysical essence of the world, and not (as G. W. F. Hegel and his followers had taught) Absolute Spirit or Mind manifesting itself according to the inner laws of its own rational development. For Schopenhauer, in fact, all forms of rationalism—metaphysical and scientific alike—involve an illicit projection into the ultimate nature of reality of principles whose actual source and spring is the human intellect alone.
the doctrine of absurdity
Schopenhauer's theory rested, in the last analysis, upon a professed knowledge of what "really" lies beneath the phenomenal (and finally illusory) surface of things. Yet there have also been thinkers whose skepticism, although quite as profound as Schopenhauer's, did not derive from claims of this kind but instead took as its point of departure the concrete facts of ordinary experience. Such is the doctrine of absurdité in the work of twentieth-century French existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. In some respects Sartre remained firmly within the Cartesian tradition, founding his epistemology upon the conception of man as a thinking consciousness confronted by an external world of unthinking substance. But the world that we are aware of is not, for Sartre, an intrinsically intelligible world whose nature conforms to a determinate logical order and whose existence is guaranteed by a benevolent deity. Sartre's view of material existence is perhaps most succinctly expressed in his first novel, La nausée, a book that contains in embryo many of the cardinal themes that later figure in his impressive philosophical treatise L'être et le néant. The hero of La nausée, Roquentin, is described as experiencing in a peculiarly vivid and horrifying way the brute "contingency" of things, their palpable failure to measure up to the standards of logical rigor and necessity, of clarity and distinctness, that reason of its nature seeks to impose upon or find realized within the world. Roquentin is impressed by the loose and arbitrary character of our modes of classifying objects and by the manner in which existence, in all its rich and pointless superfluity, seems inevitably to elude the network of interpretative concepts and schemes that we try to throw over it. When so perceived, the world can strike us as divested of all significance or value. "The world of explanations and reasons," Roquentin remarks, "is not the world of existence."
The impossibility of trying to reduce experienced reality to a system, whether Cartesian, Hegelian, or some other, had already been accepted by Søren Kierkegaard, who is often regarded as the originator of modern existentialism. But in Sartre's work one is conscious of a more positive and explicit insistence upon the opacity and ultimate unintelligibility of the world and its resistance to the abstract categories of thought. For Kierkegaard there was something eccentric, some element of radical misunderstanding, in the entire project of attempting to explain or justify existence as a whole in rational terms. By contrast, both Sartre in his philosophical works and Camus in Le mythe de Sisyphe are plainly sympathetic to those who demand intellectually or morally satisfying systematic accounts of existence; it is felt to be in some sense an imperfection of our condition as human beings in the world that such demands are necessarily incapable of being satisfied. The essence of what they call absurdité lies precisely in the contrast between the contingent amorphous character of reality, on the one hand, and the understandable requirements of reason that reality so patently fails to meet, on the other.
Irrationalism sometimes finds expression, not in the claim that reality itself is devoid of ultimate senses or purpose, but in the distinguishable idea that the customary or scientific methods by means of which we are accustomed to explore its nature and to which we accord the honorific title of "rational," are inherently defective or suspect. There are clearly close connections between this view and the conceptions of ontological irrationalism. For if the world really is irrational in the ways it is sometimes declared to be, this presumably implies that, at some level at least, it is not amenable to those modes of investigation typically regarded as rational. But some philosophers, while agreeing that such methods are incapable of leading us to any finally acceptable and satisfying explanation of the nature of things, have not supposed themselves to be thereby committed to holding that all comprehension of the desired kind is in principle impossible. They have suggested, in other words, that alternative modes of apprehending and understanding the world, free from the limitations that beset standard procedures, remain open. The object of their strictures has been the distortions inherent in these procedures, rather than the world itself.
the limits of rational inquiry
The belief that there exist determinate limits to what we can discover by the resources of ordinary sense and understanding received precise and systematic exposition in the works of Immanuel Kant. To prescribe limits to what rational inquiry can accomplish is not, as such, to impugn such inquiry, and much of the argument in the Critique of Pure Reason is, in fact, expressly concerned with establishing and explaining the validity of mathematical and scientific forms of reasoning within the empirical realm. But there were, nevertheless, two strands in Kant's philosophy that led to doctrines far removed in spirit from those Kant himself propounded. One of these was the claim that the fundamental principles in terms of which phenomenal reality is intelligible derive from the human mind and understanding; the other was the claim that there is a "noumenal" realm of things-in-themselves that is necessarily inaccessible to rational investigation.
subjectivity of criteria of rational inquiry
Kant's description of the means by which phenomenal reality is intelligible gave rise to the suggestion that the criteria of rational judgment and inference we normally accept are not the stable, objectively grounded things we take them to be but are, on the contrary, essentially subjective and even susceptible to change and variation. Thus Johann Gottlieb Fichte, at any rate in his earlier writings, often gave the impression of having thought that the basic principles in terms of which human beings interpret their experience ultimately fall within the sphere of individual choice or commitment; as prerational posits they cannot be themselves subject to rational assessment and must, instead, be evaluated by reference to the needs and demands of human beings conceived as volitional agents in the world. Fichte ended by taking refuge in the notion of an Absolute Spirit or rational ego that transcended all particular human selves.
Other nineteenth-century thinkers, however, reinterpreted Fichte's initial postulates in a fashion that implied a definite skepticism regarding the claims of rationality. This was true above all of Friedrich Nietzsche, who—at least in certain aspects of his complex and not always consistent thinking—exhibited a profound suspicion of accredited concepts and procedures. Possibly more sensitive than any previous philosopher to the emotional drives and attitudes that operate beneath the surface of human life and unconsciously influence thought and behavior, he was at times prepared to speak as if the entire manner in which we approach the world were founded upon pervasive myths and fictions. The "lies and frauds" that permeate our cherished forms of scientific investigation and description are not devoid of all value; on the contrary, from a "life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving" point of view they are actually indispensable. But insofar as we take them to embody or reveal the truth, we are the victims of deception.
Although his own confident affirmations concerning the limitations of common sense and science might seem to have required it, Nietzsche did not, in fact, postulate a superior form of cognition capable of circumventing the delusive schemes of ordinary thought and experience and of arriving at some clear, unsullied understanding of the world as it is in itself: in the last analysis there could be no escape from particular interpretations and perspectives. But to other thinkers this has not seemed so evident. Friedrich von Schelling, the contemporary of Fichte and Hegel, evolved an elaborate system in which intuition of a mystical or quasi-religious character was accorded a central place and was held to provide access to the ultimate nature of reality. "The nature of the Absolute itself," Schelling wrote, "which as ideal is also immediately real, cannot be known through explanations, but only through intuition" (Philosophie und Religion, p. 15). Later Henri Bergson also drew a sharp distinction between the intellect, regarded as having a basically practical function and as rationalizing experience through the construction of mechanistic models and hypotheses, and intuition, whereby an inner sympathetic consciousness of the creative flow that underlies and pervades the universe was attainable.
The division between rational and nonrational or suprarational modes of apprehending the world, which these and other writers have stressed, often merges into further, related contrasts; for example, between conventional perception and artistic perception, between scientific and historical understanding, or between technical know-how, which is communicable in words, and a sense of, or feel for, the inward direction and meaning of things, which is not. Rationalists have tended to point out in return that such contentions are open to serious objections. Emphasis is laid upon the "privacy" of the alleged "insight" or "intuition"; but how can such insight aspire to the status of knowledge if no public criteria are available whereby its findings may be tested or confirmed? Again, in what sense can one speak of knowledge or understanding if—as often seems to be assumed—the intuition is of a kind that precludes conceptualization? Nevertheless, whatever difficulties irrationalist epistemology may present, these have not prevented its adherents from claiming that there are modes of awareness of the deepest significance to which rationalistic theorists have remained perennially blind.
Questions have also been raised with regard to our claims to moral knowledge and certainty. For instance, a number of writers of an empiricist persuasion (including Rudolf Carnap, A. J. Ayer, and C. L. Stevenson) adopted views concerning the meaning and function of moral judgments that would seem to deny, or at least put in doubt, the possibility of treating these as the proper subjects of rational argument. Yet such writers would certainly reject the suggestion that they are irrationalists in any of the senses so far distinguished. If they owe a historical debt, it is to David Hume (himself a skeptic concerning the rationality of morals) rather than to Continental sources, and they would in any case claim that their theories are grounded upon purely logical considerations related to the analysis of moral concepts and terms rather than upon alleged discoveries about the nature of the world or the status of human beings within it. Nor would they be likely to admit that what they say entails any dramatic consequences so far as the realm of practical choice and action is concerned; on the contrary, they have tended to contend that their theories, being of a wholly conceptual character, are neutral between particular moral standpoints and outlooks.
absence of a moral order in the world
Not every challenge to the rationality of morals has, however, been characterized by a comparable detachment. One of the strongest motives in recent times for belief that moral convictions are without basis or justification has been precisely the decay of all-encompassing theological and philosophical interpretations of reality; for these were thought of as providing the moral consciousness with the kind of backing it logically required. Along with the religious beliefs to which it was sometimes allied, the conception of a moral order at the heart of existence, either revealing itself directly to the eye of reason or manifesting itself empirically in the course of human life and history, was already in decline during the nineteenth century. Schopenhauer's theory of all-pervasive metaphysical will was directly expressive of this development, but it was Nietzsche, not Schopenhauer, who drew the radical consequences. According to Nietzsche, it was necessary to recognize, once and for all, that there is no moral order, no system of ready-made values, objectively subsisting "out there" in the world—"there are no moral phenomena, only moralistic interpretations of phenomena," he wrote in Beyond Good and Evil. The notion of moral facts is a philosopher's delusion. With such ideas in mind Nietzsche, in effect, did two things. First, he embarked upon a devastating analysis intended to show how traditional moral codes, far from resulting from the operations of contemplative reason, derive instead from deep-lying nonrational forces in the human psyche, from motives like resentment and sadism and fear. Second, he urged that it is now possible for us—since, in his famous phrase, "God is dead"—to create new values, more fitted to preserving the dignity of humanity and to realizing those human energies and capacities that still await their true fulfillment.
The claim that it is now possible to determine new values along these lines drew attention to a difficulty that has beset theorists who have denied the possibility of appealing to rational canons within the moral sphere. Nietzsche was a moralist who wished to insist that certain forms of character and behavior were evidently superior to others; at the same time, he was committed to the opinion that, objectively considered, there was nothing to justify preference for one way of life, one system of values, rather than another—nichts ist wahr, alles ist erlaubt ("nothing is true, everything permitted"). If traditional Christian morality is without foundation in fact or reason, then so, likewise, is any alternative ethics with which we may seek to replace it.
Similar tensions and ambiguities underlie other varieties of individualist or existentialist teaching, from Max Stirner and Kierkegaard on. Sometimes it seems to be maintained that sheer intensity and sincerity of commitment is all that ultimately counts from a moral point of view. What is chosen is not a matter for argument, since in the last resort there is no yardstick, no privileged set of criteria, against which rival possibilities may be assessed and evaluated. The vital thing is for a man to assert his essential freedom by refusing to conform his will to forces and agencies external to himself, including the falsely substantialized standards of conventional religion and ethics.
Sometimes, on the other hand, an attempt is made to give the notion of an acceptable mode of living more positive content, the implication being that certain forms of behavior are more appropriate to our situation in the world than others. For beings who find themselves in an alien and meaningless world, which is bereft of purpose or value, there may be virtue, or at any rate fittingness, in conduct that reflects the inescapable absurdity of their condition. Suggestions as to how conduct might be said to do so have for the most part been as vague as they have been various. Living in the present or for the moment, giving spontaneous vent to instincts or passions (as opposed to trying to heed the reasonable dictates of conscience or prudence), indulging in anarchical or incongruous behavior for its own sake, undertaking certain types of useless artistic activity—these are among the proposals that may be extracted from works purporting to show what is meant. Such works often seem to be inspired by a curious form of inverted rationalism; the rational response to an irrational world is to act irrationally. Yet it would be incorrect to imply that this is the only consideration that has been used to justify such behavior. Instead, the recommendation appears to be held by some proponents to follow from a realization of what constitutes our true innermost nature as human beings; and this claim introduces a further dimension of irrationalist thought.
Psychological and Social Irrationalism
The claim that it is not the human situation that is intrinsically absurd, but that human nature itself is in some fundamental sense irrational, is not confined to philosophers of a metaphysical or speculative persuasion; its adherents also include psychologists, political scientists, social theorists, historians, literary artists, and even statesmen. In this area, above all others, a pervasive departure from certain dominant Enlightenment conceptions may be discerned, involving a shift of outlook that has led to drastic changes in the approach adopted by many writers to problems concerning man and society.
It is difficult neatly to summarize the complex and sometimes conflicting ideas involved here. One underlying theme, however, has been that the idéologues of the eighteenth century, together with the utilitarians and progressive radicals who followed them in the nineteenth century, grossly exaggerated the extent to which human behavior is motivated, or is capable of being modified, by rational consideration. It has further been suggested that such overvaluation of reason or intellect caused liberal and democratic thinkers to adopt absurdly optimistic, unrealistic, and naive views concerning the capacity of men to improve themselves and the conditions under which they live.
At the level of individual psychology it is held to be false that people usually or consistently are activated by calculations regarding their best interests or that they can confidently be expected to respond to considerations of abstract moral principle or general advantage once these are clearly apprehended and understood. Such doctrines are the fictions of philosophical theory and ignore three essential points. First, vast areas of human behavior are, in fact, governed by overriding antisocial passions like pride and cruelty. The indulgence of these is in general detrimental to the agent's long-term advantage, frequently causing as much harm to him as to those against whom his actions may be directed. Second, it is a mistake to write off as mere eradicable superstition the various myths, religious and otherwise, in terms of which men are prone to conduct their lives. These are often attuned to powerful nonrational forces in the psyche that demand expression and that, if frustrated, are likely to seek outlet in other, possibly more dangerous forms. Third, it is important to appreciate how often people are totally unaware of the true motives and drives that determine their actions; human beings are adept at rationalization and self-deception, and their conduct may appear to be guided by reason when, in reality, it is directed by quite different factors. Intimations of these notions occurred in the writings of the Marquis de Sade and Joseph de Maistre at the close of the eighteenth century; and they were subsequently given forceful expression in the works of romantic and postromantic thinkers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. More recently, they have been regarded as receiving impressive and detailed corroboration from the advances in psychoanalysis initiated by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung.
political and social thought
In the sphere of political and social theory, insistence upon the irrationality of human nature has tended to be combined with traditionalist, authoritarian, or reactionary conceptions of government. To some, it has seemed obvious that the only enduring way of preserving the integrity of society against the disruptive forces of violence and passion lurking beneath the thin surface of civilized life consists in the use of coercion and suppression. De Maistre, for instance, considered the executioner to be the most significant figure in the state. Stress is laid on the importance of instilling habits of obedience to authority by appeals to supernatural or providential powers and by safeguarding the atmosphere of reverence and awe that surrounds the person of the ruler in established societies—a principal objection to proposals for the reorganization of social life according to egalitarian or consciously utilitarian general principles has been the belief that they can only lead to a loosening of the mysterious ties that hold a political community together. Likewise, attempts to displace unreasoned acceptance of the existing order of things by the propagation of scientifically inspired ideas and policies strike at the root of all that makes for social cohesion.
Edmund Burke was, for these reasons, deeply distrustful of revolutionary theories and plans. He thought that the true sources of political harmony lay below the level of rational reflection and showed considerable prescience concerning the consequences likely to ensue if the checks upon men's passions provided by traditional arrangements were challenged or removed. He did not, however, share the curiously ambivalent attitude toward violent or sadistic human propensities discernible in certain later social thinkers, who saw these as something to be systematically exploited rather than inhibited and for whom the ideas of force and brutality seem to have possessed a powerful emotional appeal. In the case of Vilfredo Pareto, for instance, the approach adopted toward the role of the irrational in human life was not as detached or objective as he tried to present it. Such writers did not merely dismiss humanitarian schemes for social amelioration and improvement as ultimately unrealistic, impracticable, or utopian; it was also strongly suggested in their works that if these schemes were to be realized, this would constitute an intrinsically undesirable state of affairs. It is for pressing the second claim, as well as the first, that fascism is often described as an irrationalist ideology.
Major currents of thought do not originate in a vacuum, and the various components of modern irrationalism have many diverse sources. Among them are the void left by the decay of institutionalized religion, the recurrent failure of large-scale reformist movements (like the French and Russian revolutions) to fulfill the hopes that originally inspired them, and the inability of contemporary industrial society to provide scope for individual self-expression. But it would be a mistake to regard irrationalist trends as purely pathological symptoms or to suppose that they have contributed nothing of value to the development of thought. It is common for Anglo-Saxon critics to denounce some irrationalist claims as having played a pernicious role in the formation of extremist political ideologies and to dismiss others as representing no more than inflated or misleading formulations of familiar logical doctrines—for instance, it has been suggested that the existentialist conception of the world as irrational is (partly at least) a bombastic restatement of the Humean insight that there exist no necessary connections between matters of fact. Up to a point such objections may be justified. However, it is worth remembering that there are important areas of human consciousness and behavior that theorists of a rationalistic temper have been characteristically prone to overlook and that it has been largely left to theorists of a different outlook to explore and define these areas. To say that the task has sometimes been perversely performed is not to say that it should not have been undertaken at all.
See also Ayer, Alfred Jules; Bergson, Henri; Burke, Edmund; Camus, Albert; Carnap, Rudolf; Descartes, René; Enlightenment; Existentialism; Fascism; Fichte, Johann Gottlieb; Freud, Sigmund; Jung, Carl Gustav; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Historicism; Hobbes, Thomas; Hume, David; Kant, Immanuel; Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Locke, John; Maistre, Comte Joseph de; Myth; Nietzsche, Friedrich; Pareto, Vilfredo; Pascal, Blaise; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Schopenhauer, Arthur; Spinoza, Benedict (Baruch) de; Stevenson, Charles L.; Stirner, Max.
major irrationalist works
Bergson, Henri. Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by T. E. Hulme. New York: Putnam, 1913.
Bergson, Henri. Time and Free Will. Translated by P. L. Pogson. London: Sonnenschein, 1910.
Bergson, Henri. The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. Translated by R. A Audra and Cloudesley Brereton. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954.
Camus, Albert. Le mythe de Sisyphe. Paris: Gallimard, 1942.
Dostoevsky, Fëdor. Notes from Underground. Translated by Constance Garnett, in his Works. 12 vols. New York, 1912–1920.
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper, 1962.
Kierkegaard, Søren. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Translated by D. F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1941.
Kierkegaard, Søren. Philosophical Fragments. Translated by D. F. Swenson, with introduction and commentary by Niels Tholstrup. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.
Maistre, Joseph de. Les soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg. 6th ed. Paris, 1850.
Müller-Freienfels, Richard. Irrationalismus. Berlin, 1923.
Müller-Freienfels, Richard. Metaphysik des Irrationalen. Leipzig: Meiner, 1927.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Helen Zimmern. New York: Macmillan, 1924.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Genealogy of Morals. Translated by H. B. Samuel. New York: Macmillan, 1924.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking Press, 1954.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Translated by A. M. Ludovice. New York: Macmillan, 1924.
Pareto, Vilfredo. Mind and Society. Translated by Arthur Livingstone. London: Cape, 1935.
Pascal, Blaise. Pensées. Translated by W. F. Trotter. New York, 1954.
Sade, Marquis de. Selected Writings. Translated by Paul Dinnage. London, 1962. Introductory essay by Simone de Beauvoir.
Sartre, Jean-Paul, L'être et le néant. Translated by Hazel Barnes as Being and Nothingness. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. La nausée. Paris: Gallimard, 1938.
Schelling, F. W. J. von. Philosophie und Religion. In his Werke, edited by M. Schröter. Munich, 1927–1928. Vol. IV.
Schopenhauer, Arthur. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. Translated by E. F. J. Payne as The World as Will and Representation. 2 vols. Indian Hills, CO: Falcon's Wing Press, 1958.
Sorel, Georges. Reflections on Violence. Translated by T. E. Hulme. New York: Huebsch, 1914.
Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of the West. Translated by C. F. Atkinson. New York, 1947.
Tolstoy, Lev. Death of Ivan Ilyitch and A Confession, in his Works, translated by Louise Maude and Aylmer Maude. 21 vols. Oxford, 1928–1937.
general commentaries and surveys
Agassi, Joseph, and I. C. Jarvie. "The Rationality of Irrationalism." Metaphilosophy 11 (1980): 127–133.
Aiken, H. D. The Age of Ideology. New York: New American Library, 1956. Selections from nineteenth-century philosophers, with introduction and interpretive commentary.
Almond, Brenda. "Philosophy and the Cult of Irrationalism." Philosophy, supplement 33 (1992): 201–217.
Ayer, A. J. "Some Aspects of Existentialism." Rationalist Annual (1948).
Barrett, William. Irrational Man. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958.
Berlin, Isaiah. The Hedgehog and the Fox. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1953. This study of Tolstoy's view of history includes a discussion of the antirationalist strains in Tolstoy's thought, and explores some of the parallels between his ideas and those of Joseph de Maistre.
Blackham, H. J. Six Existentialist Thinkers. New York, 1952.
Brown, Harold. Rationality. London: Routledge, 1988.
Copleston, Frederick. History of Philosophy. Vol. VII: Fichte to Nietzsche. London, 1963.
Mele, Alfred. "Motivated Irrationality." In The Oxford Handbook of Rationality, edited by Alfred Mele. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Rescher, Nicholas. Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Rogers, W. Kim. "Existentialism Is not Irrationalism: A Challenge to the Common Interpretation of Existentialism." Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 20 (1989): 77–83.
Rorty, Richard. "Pragmatism, Relativism, and Irrationalism." Proceedings of the Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 53 (1980): 719–738.
Russell, Bertrand. "The Ancestry of Fascism." In In Praise of Idleness. London, 1960.
Russell, Bertrand. Power, a New Social Analysis. New York: Norton, 1938. Ch. 16.
Simon, Herbert. Reason in Human Affairs. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1981.
Smart, J. J. C. "Critical Notice: David Stove, On Enlightenment and Scientific Irrationalism." Australastian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2003): 429–433.
Stich, Stephen. The Fragmentation of Reason. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990.
Young, Julian. "Is Schopenhauer an Irrationalist?" Schopenhauer Jahrbuch 69 (1988): 85–100.
Watkins, John. "On Stove's Book, by a Fifth 'Irrationalist.'" Australasian Journal of Philosophy 63 (1985): 259–268.
Wolf, L. H. de. The Religious Revolt against Reason. New York: Harper, 1949.
Wollheim, Richard. "The Political Philosophy of Existentialism." Cambridge Journal 7 (1953): 3–19.
Patrick Gardiner (1967)
Bibliography updated by Benjamin Fiedor (2005)