Overcoming post-rationalist nihilism

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Realizing that rationalism is wrong can be devastating, if you have built an identity around it. Post-rationalist nihilism is the loss of meaning, of self-definition, of understanding, or even of hope, in the aftermath.

Learning to master rationality is an engrossing way of being. In your teens and twenties, it can absorb most of your attention and energy. It is natural to construct your identity—your understanding of your self, and the world, and how they relate—around rationality. It is also natural to take rationalism for granted as your understanding of what rationality is and how it works; and therefore what you are, and how you work.

Post-rationalist rage, anxiety, and depression can be destructive and awful. It is too common among smart, open-minded scientifically and technically educated people. Fortunately, it is not necessary.

Post-rationalist nihilism can be prevented, or cured, by recognizing that:

  1. Rationality often works. It doesn’t always work, and there are domains in which it doesn’t work at all. However, it remains immensely valuable in many. You can maintain pride that you are capable of it.
  2. Rationalism is a mistaken theory of rationality, but a better understanding is available. Meta-rationalism explains how and why rationality works when it does.
  3. Applying the more accurate understanding can level up your skill in using rationality.