There seems little contemporary work on 'fear'. I certainly couldn't see anything which gave it such important a role. But

Fear, in the Ethics, seems to be government’s most valuable means of bringing passionate citizens to cooperate and obey: at IVp37s2, Spinoza suggests that states should rely on threats. In the Theological Political Treatise, however, Spinoza’s accounts of religion, and particularly of miracles and scripture, suggest that devotion devotio, a passion associated with wonder at Ethics IIIp52s, is a better political motive than fear.

Supposing that the good life is under the aspect of eternity and includes participation in a polis etc., then might philosophy - as a search for meaning that is greater than ourselves - be essentially about reducing fear (especially so that we may be creative)?

I think I read somewhere sometime that the enlightenment was essentially about reducing fear of nature. How can we avoid any sado-masochistic consequences to asserting this role to thinking/philosophy?

  • What sado-masochistic consequences come from reducing fear?
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 11, 2023 at 2:03
  • just something about moral autonomy in the enlightenment project @ScottRowe
    – user67155
    Aug 11, 2023 at 2:28
  • Is your quote quoted from somewhere? If so, you should add a reference.
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 11, 2023 at 8:33
  • "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand." -Kurt Vonnegut. I'd say philosophy is more like that. Our compulsion to situate ourselves, in relation to what we know
    – CriglCragl
    Aug 11, 2023 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


The task of philosophy is, or rather should be, to ascertain truth. The truth can set you free or still put you in fear.

If the fear is based on incorrect assumptions, then fear will go away if those assumptions are weeded out through the use of philosophy. But if they are not, or are ultimately sourced in your brain chemistry, then philosophy is hopeless in reducing it. You cannot reduce what you are programmed to feel.

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