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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the designation for idealistic currents in philosophy that, as opposed to rationalism, restrict or deny the possibilities of reason in cognition and base their understanding of the world on something irrational, that is, inaccessible to reason or alien to it, asserting the illogical and irrational character of existence itself. The concept “irrationalism” refers to all the different philosophical systems and currents that accentuate one or another aspect of man’s spiritual life that lie outside the rational, such as will (in voluntarism), direct contemplation, feeling, and intuition (in intuitionism), mystical “illumination,” imagination, instinct, or the “unconscious.” All religious and religiophilosophical teachings are in their basic content irration-alistic, even though in their further interpretation they use the forms of rational thinking.

Irrationalism, with its deprecation or negation of rational cognition, must be distinguished from agnosticism, which asserts the complete and fundamental impossibility of objective knowledge of the world.

Irrationalist currents in the most general sense can be traced through the entire history of philosophy: they are characteristic, for example, of medieval mysticism, which, in contrast to the rationalistic claims of Scholasticism, saw the way to attaining god in suprarational contemplation and feeling. Irrationalism in the narrow sense of the term designates those currents of bourgeois philosophy that developed in opposition to modern rationalism. For example, there are the “philosophy of feeling and faith” of F. H. Jacobi, which opposes Enlightenment rationalism, the “philosophy of revelation” of F. W. von Schelling’s last period, the voluntaristic conceptions of A. Schopenhauer (Germany), and the doctrines of S. Kierkegaard (Denmark), which are a unique reaction to the idealistic rationalism of German classical philosophy and, in particular, Hegelian panlogism. The most prominent irrationalists in the mid-19th century were F. Nietzsche, the founder of the philosophy of life, and E. Hart-mann (Germany), with his “philosophy of the unconscious.”

Irrationalist tendencies spread widely because of the crisis of bourgeois society and its culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. Irrationalism is particularly apparent in such currents as the philosophy of life (W. Dilthey, Germany; H. Bergson, France) and existentialism (M. Heidegger, Germany), but irrationalistic currents are also typical of other directions of modern bourgeois philosophy (for example, some varieties of neopositivism). Irrationalism is in direct contradiction to Marxist-Leninist philosophy, which takes a scientific and materialistic world view.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Perhaps the most derisive response was a profile of Kass in The American Prospect, unhesitatingly titled "Irrationalist in Chief," which slammed the "Wisdom of Repugnance" as "a grand piece of anti-intellectualism" and a "pseudo-intellectual defense of 'yuck' reactions."(2) Most professional bioethicists pull up short of this condemnation, but it would be no stretch to say that many cannot mention this essay of Kass's without exasperated eye-rolling.
I think he said that Hamas is portrayed as irrationalist and jihadist.
"All over again the West confronts an irrationalist, agonistic theocreatic/ideocratic system which is essentially opposed to its existence." OK.
This is a tour de force, a must reading for all those who have despaired over the irrationalist attack on Muslim civilization and its adherents in recent years.
How was it possible for someone with a knowledge of that great irrationalist movement, of figures like Shelley or Byron, not to understand that it was precisely a deeply rooted archetype--the Holy Innocent--that the Hicks narrative was slotting into?
As this preliminary analysis shows, Wahhabism has emerged as the ideological vanguard of a highly militant Islamism that is swamping traditional Islam, subverting key Western institutions and serving as the basis of a major new form of irrationalist totalitarian ideology operating on a global scale.
In conclusion, the topic of the war shows once again how Pessoa, focusing exclusively on notions such as those of power and Dionysian intoxication, actually ends up adopting the questionable and irrationalist image of Nietzsche widespread at the beginning of the century.
By contrast, Coleridge believes irrationalist tendencies to be so deeply ingrained in language--and even properly so from his conservative perspective--that pure reason will always be at risk from its very expression.
How the pervasively nihilistic post-war generation of Dutch novelists--Hermans, Reve, Mulisch, Wolkers--was able to interact with the irrationalist tradition of German thought, when it was taboo for most of their German contemporaries, does not emerge, apart from a reference to Mulisch's expressions of interest in Ernst Junger.
--from Chris Mooney's "Irrationalist in Chief: The Real Problem with Leon Kass"
From the perspective of religious history, National Socialism is perhaps best seen as an offshoot of the volkische Bewegung, but one that rejected the earlier movement's elitism, aestheticism, and intellectualism (even in its "irrationalist" forms) in favor of a program that combined populism, "traditional values," and violence with a specific vision of racial and technological modernity.