William Barrett (philosopher)
William Christopher Barrett (1913–1992) was a professor of philosophy at New York University from 1950 to 1979. Precociously, he began post-secondary studies at the City College of New York when 15 years old. He received his PhD at Columbia University. He was an editor of Partisan Review and later the literary critic of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. He was well known for writing philosophical works for nonexperts. Perhaps the best known among these were Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy and The Illusion of Technique, which remain in print.
Like many intellectuals of his generation, Barrett flirted with Marxism before turning his energies to providing readable introductions to European philosophical schools, notably existentialism. Irrational Man remains one of the most approachable reviews of existentialism in English.
Barrett was good friends with the poet Delmore Schwartz for many years. He knew many other literary figures of the day, including Edmund Wilson, Philip Rahv, and Albert Camus. He was deeply influenced by the philosophy of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger and was the editor of D.T. Suzuki's 1956 classic Zen Buddhism. In fiction his taste ran to the great Russians, particularly Dostoyevsky. He was the father of Susan and Michael Barrett, longtime husband of Juliet Bigney Barrett and the grandfather of Madeleine, Natalie, Keegan, Kyra, and Rian. Barrett was also father to Ellen (Nell) Barrett through his second marriage to Margaret Merrick Boyce Barrett, and the grandfather of Georgia and Clinton.
- What Is Existentialism? (1947), Partisan Review, 1964 Random House edition: ISBN 0-394-17388-0
- Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (1958), Doubleday, Anchor Books paperback (1962): ISBN 978-0-385-03138-7
- Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1962), four volumes, William Barrett and Henry D. Aiken, editors, Random House
- Time of Need: Forms of Imagination in the Twentieth Century (1972), Harper Bros. ISBN 0-06-131754-3
- The Illusion of Technique: A Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization (1979), Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-11202-4
- The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals (1982), a memoir, Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-17328-5
- Death of the Soul: From Descartes to the Computer (1986), Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-17327-8
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- Biography at Anova.org.
- Bryan Magee interviews William Barrett on existentialism at knowledge-video.com.