Books: Rationalist Revival

THE ENGLISH MORALISTS by Basil Willey. 318 pages. Norton. $6.95.

The British philosophers and essayists of the past three centuries are more admired than read. Impeccably cool and collected, preening themselves on their rationalism, they leave the present impassioned age cold indeed. Yet these writers played a large part in shaping modern notions of good and evil, pleasure and pain, freedom and tyranny. They are also eminently readable, writes Basil Willey, English-literature professor for 18 years at Cambridge. His engaging little book may well spark a rationalist revival.

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