Cartesian Nihilism

Term
The deprivation of meaning caused by the pursuit of individual certainty rather than the holy or sacred. The metaphysical embrace of the individual, as encouraged by Descartes, makes a meaningful life more difficult to pursue than the embrace of sacred concepts that occur outside of the individual.
Explanations
Cal Newport elaborating on the work of Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorance Kelly: “From Descartes’s skepticism came the radical belief that the individual seeking certainty trumped a God or king bestowing truth. The resulting Enlightenment, of course, led to the concept of human rights and freed many from oppression. But Dreyfus and Kelly emphasize, for all its good in the political arena, in the domain of the metaphysical this thinking stripped the world of the order and sacredness essential in creating meaning. In a post-Enlightenment world we have tasked ourselves to identify what’s meaningful and what’s not, an exercise that can seem arbitrary and induce creeping nihilism. The Enlightenment’s metaphysical embraces of the autonomous individual leads not just to a boring life, Dreyful and Kelly worry it leads to a nearly unlivable one” (87, Deep Work)
Sources
Deep Work by Cal Newport
All Things Bright and Shining by Sean Dorance Kelly and Hbert Dreyfus

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