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Irrationality

A History of the Dark Side of Reason

Justin E. H. Smith

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Princeton University Pres
15 February 2021
From sex and music to religion and politics, a history of irrationality and the ways in which it has always been with us - and always will be.

In this sweeping account of irrationality from antiquity to the rise of Twitter mobs and the election of Donald Trump, Justin Smith argues that irrationality makes up the greater part of human life and history. Ranging across philosophy, politics, and current events, he shows that, throughout history, every triumph of reason has been temporary and reversible, and that rational schemes often result in their polar opposite. Illuminating unreason at a moment when the world appears to have gone mad again, Irrationality is timely, provocative, and fascinating.

'Stippled with fascinating meditations and vignettes.' - Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Review of Books 'Irrationality is unique among recent paeans to Enlightenment and liberalism in marrying a resolute defence of reason with a recognition of how futile such defences tend to be.' - William Davies, London Review of Books 'No philosopher alive today writes with as much wit, voice, and erudition as Justin Smith. Irrationality is a masterpiece: an urgent warning that no grand design of perfect rationality can provide the solution to the depravity of this political moment.' - Yascha Mounk, author of The People vs. Democracy 'A learned, ludic, and often profound meditation on how the perverse dialectic of reason and unreason has played out over history.' - Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?
By:  
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 203mm,  Width: 133mm, 
ISBN:   9780691210513
ISBN 10:   0691210519
Pages:   344
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Justin E. H. Smith is professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris 7-Denis Diderot. His books include The Philosopher: A History in Six Types (Princeton). Twitter @jehsmith

Reviews for Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason

With a vast sweep and elegant writing, this is a remarkable, erudite, and stylish book on an important and timely subject: the persistent tendency toward irrationalism in human history. Irrationality is fresh, perceptive, and enjoyable. --Kieran Setiya, author of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide A learned, ludic, and often profound meditation on how the perverse dialectic of reason and unreason has played out over history, from the era of Pythagoras to that of Zizek and Trump. Smith writes with the limpidity of an anglophone philosopher and the cool encyclopedic assurance of a Parisian intello. --Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story Justin Smith's book could not have come at a better moment. In an era in which many have taken leave of their senses, he draws a map of what led us here, offering a convincing account of the Enlightenment and its discontents. The passages on Trumpism are particularly edifying. --Christy Wampole, author of The Other Serious: Essays for the New American Generation Irrationality is . . . stippled with fascinating meditations and vignettes. ---Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Review of Books No philosopher alive today writes with as much wit, voice, and erudition as Justin Smith. Irrationality is a masterpiece: an urgent warning that no grand design of perfect rationality can provide the solution to the depravity of this political moment. --Yascha Mounk, author of The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It Irrationality is unique among recent paeans to Enlightenment and liberalism in marrying a resolute defence of reason with a recognition of how futile such defences tend to be. ---William Davies, London Review of Books


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