The Heuristics of Fear: Can the Ambivalence of Fear Teach Us Anything in the Technological Age?

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Roberto Franzini Tibaldeo

Abstract

The paper assumes that fear presents a certain degree of ambivalence. To say it with Hans Jonas (1903-1993), fear is not only a negative emotion, but may teach us something very important: we recognize what is relevant when we perceive that it is at stake. Under this respect, fear may be assumed as a guide to responsibility, a virtue that is becoming increasingly important, because of the role played by human technology in the current ecological crisis. Secondly, fear and responsibility concern both dimensions of human action: private-individual and public-collective. What the ‘heuristics of fear’ teaches us, is to become aware of a deeper ambivalence, namely the one which characterizes as such human freedom, which may aim to good or bad, to self-preservation or self-destruction. Any public discussion concerning political or economic issues related with human action (at an individual or collective level) ought not to leave this essential idea out of consideration.

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