Books: Pursuit of the Really Real

THE ILLUSION OF TECHNIQUE by William Barrett;

Anchor/Doubleday; 359 pages; $12.95

Philosophy, William Barrett once confessed, is "a very dubious profession" in America. But in his new book, The Illusion of Technique, Barrett vigorously rehabilitates the profession. For better or worse, he writes, philosophers have made the modern world: "If there had not been those early Greek thinkers who created philosophy, there would be no atomic bombs." Barrett's narrative of the stages in between is highly speculative. But his hold on elusive ideas is so sure, his erudition so vast and effortless, that a...

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