I stopped by the Strand bookstore last night and picked up three books on the cheap: William Barrett’s Irrational Man, Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man, and The Rationalists (a compilation with select works by Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz).
I have already started to read the Barrett book and find it to be a good and comprehensive discussion of existentialism. Perhaps my only point of disagreement is that he too willingly accepts the idea that religion was a comprehensive worldview in the medieval world, acting as peoples’ security blanket. Of course such an explanation does not do justice to the way religion was even more a discourse of legitimation and power. Yet it’s hard to fault Barrett entirely for not taking this into account, given the book’s publishing year (1958) and the fact that such power-oriented descriptions of religious language and symbols did not become prominent till the 1970s.