As cognitive scientists have observed, we all have an elaborate theory of the world in our heads in terms of which we process our experience. It is profoundly disturbing to have that theory challenged, to encounter phenomena which it does not enable us to comprehend. Such an encounter may give rise to what Camus describes as the sentiment of the absurd. Our deepest desire, says Camus, is for familiarity and clarity, for a world in which we feel at home and that makes sense in human terms. Every culture provides such a world, creating an illusion of knowledge and permitting its members to live with realities a recognition of which would upset their whole lives: “So long as the mind keeps silent in the motionless world of its hopes, everything is reflected and arranged in the unity of its nostalgia. But with the first move this world cracks and tumbles” and we “must despair of ever reconstructing the familiar, calm surface which would give us peace of heart” (Camus 1960, 14).
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