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The philosophies of irrationalism and aestheticism formed as a cultural reaction against positivism during the early 20th century.

These perspectives opposed or deemphasized the importance of the rationality of human beings. Instead, they concentrated on the experience of one's own existence. Part of the philosophies involved claims that science was inferior to intuition. Art was considered especially prestigious, as it was considered to represent the noumenon. The style was not accepted greatly by the public, as the social system generally limited access of the art to the elite. Some of the proponents of this style were Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henri Bergson, Lev Shestov and Georges Sorel. Symbolism and existentialism derived from these philosophies