William Barrett, Lionel Trilling, and the “Residual Legatees of the Enlightenment” (Fabricating the Counter-Enlightenment Part V)

ZJB: An excellent and detailed post by James Schmidt at Persistent Enlightenment. He picks up the question of Enlightenment, liberalism, counter-enlightenment and conservativism as debated in the U.S. by William Barrett, Lionel Trilling, and others at mid-century, at the dawn of the cold war. Religion and the irrational is at the core of the discussion.

Persistent Enlightenment

In the June 1949 issue of Partisan Review, William Barrett — a professor of philosophy at New York University and an associate editor at Partisan Review — closed a series of exchanges with the literary critics Richard Chase and Lionel Trilling on the nature of and prospects for “liberalism” with the following characterization of Trilling’s contribution:

Mr. Trilling indicates what might be described as the Counter-Enlightenment in the figures of Pascal, Blake, Burke and Wordsworth. I agree that the movement of the Counter-Enlightenment is a very deep and significant one in modern thought, though I should come at its historical definition a little differently from Mr. Trilling: I should not, for example, include Pascal though he deals with all its data, because he antedates the actual historical epoch in which this movement comes into being; and I think the issues of the Counter-Enlightenment are defined in more extreme, and…

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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