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Irrationalism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the early 19th century,[1] emphasizing the non-rational dimension of human life. As they reject logic, irrationalists argue that instinct and feelings are superior to the reason in the research of knowledge.[2][3][4] The term has often been used as a pejorative designation of criticisms against rationalism as a whole.[5]

The philosophy of rationalism, understood as having first emerged in the writings of Francis Bacon and René Descartes, has received a variety of criticisms since its inception.[1] These may entail a view that certain things are beyond rational understanding, that total rationality is insufficient to human life, or that people are not instinctively rational and progressive.[5][3]


György Lukács has argued that the first period of irrationalism arose with Schelling and Kierkegaard, in a fight against the dialectical concept of progress embraced by German idealism.[6]

Ontological irrationalism, a position adopted by Arthur Schopenhauer, describes the world as not organized in a rational way. Since humans are born as bodies-manifestations of an irrational striving for meaning, they are vulnerable to pain and suffering.[7]

Oswald Spengler believed that the materialist vision of Karl Marx was based on nineteenth-century science, while the twentieth century would be the age of psychology:[8]

"We no longer believe in the power of reason over life. We feel that it is life which dominates reason."

— Oswald Spengler. Politische Schriften, 1932.[9]


  1. ^ a b Callahan, Gene; McIntyre, Kenneth B., eds. (2020). "Introduction". Critics of Enlightenment Rationalism. Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 1. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-42599-9. ISBN 978-3-030-42598-2.
  2. ^ "Irrationalisme". CNRTL. Retrieved 2019-09-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Duignan, Brian. "Irrationalism". Retrieved 2019-09-05. {{cite encyclopedia}}: |website= ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Kukla, André (2013-01-11). Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science. Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 9781134567386.
  5. ^ a b "Irrationalism". Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2nd ed.). Macmillan Library Reference. 2005.
  6. ^ Rockmore, I. (2012-12-06). Lukács Today: Essays in Marxist Philosophy. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 5. ISBN 9789400928978.
  7. ^ Peters, M. (2014-12-03). Schopenhauer and Adorno on Bodily Suffering: A Comparative Analysis. Springer. ISBN 9781137412171.
  8. ^ Woods, Roger (1996-03-25). The Conservative Revolution in the Weimar Republic. Springer. p. 66. ISBN 9780230375857.
  9. ^ Spengler, Oswald (1932). Politische Schriften. Volksausgabe. pp. 83–86.