“Fear outlines a courageous path, an ethical concern and a concern for those who will come after us”

Tribune. It has become fashionable to repeat on all stages that fear cannot be a good adviser, that we do not play good politics by brandishing it, that we do not rule by fear, etc. Chin effects to support, quarter of an hour of gloriole expected.

Some philosophers, of unequal philosophies, believe it good to bring their contribution ex officio to this unison of the false courageous. False, because they do not even have the guts to support the “not even fear” policies that prevail here and there in the world, in Brazil or the United States for example, with the results that we are seeing. For them, it is only a question of draping themselves, for the time of a TV, in the supposed virtues of indignation, rebellion and just anger united. Which give, once added together, the sum and the peak of irresponsibility.

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In a ledger, The Responsibility Principle, the philosopher Hans Jonas (1903-1993) on the contrary makes fear a guide for action – that is to say a rule of approximation of risks – highly useful to politics. Fear establishes and stimulates the social responsibility of those who have to decide, he tells us. It is a means of preventing, by imagining it, the experience of a future evil.

Both in the order of feeling, by what it intuition, and in the order of intelligence, by the reflection that it opens on the possibility of a rationally foreseeable danger as well as on its consequences, the fear empowers. Not only by subjecting subjects to their individual legal responsibility, linked to what they do or have done, but above all by placing them collectively before what will result from their action for future generations or for the world as such.

A courageous path

Humanity as a whole, explains Jonas, could thus derive from the anticipation of disasters a knowledge, admittedly incomplete, but also a capacity to prevent the worst. This is what he calls a “Fear heuristic”, that is to say an art of discovering solutions to apprehended problems and thus reaching plausible, if not absolutely certain and optimal conclusions. Fear, according to this rational “heuristic”, therefore holds a practical lucidity value.

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The word “fear” obviously gets a bad press because it often connotes the idea of ​​weakness. And it is true that there is a fear which can lead to flight, to cowardice (some “Jonassians” propose to call this fear “fear” and that of the heuristic “fear”, but the word does not matter. ). It is obviously not this paralyzing anguish that Jonas takes in view. And it is not of this that he makes a “heuristic”. The fear which founds the “principle of responsibility” leads on the contrary to face a situation and, in front of it, to orientate the action in order to prevent that from happening to happen what we have imaginatively anticipated in fear and trembling. .

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