Obviously, the philosophy of emotions is complex and contentious (it's philosophy after all). But many people, philosophers and cognitive scientists alike, agree that there are conditions for the appropriateness of emotions. I was hoping I could get some recommendations on papers or articles dealing with, or at least addressing, what conditions must be met for fear to be a rational emotion. Thanks

  • Conversely, obviously not. The etymological meaning of the word philosophy is 'love of learning'. Fear is a basic animal instinct, There is no connection. Sep 14, 2017 at 10:08
  • Daniel Dennett's 'Intentional Systems' sounds relevant. Along the line of evolutionary biology, Dennett argues that (successful) intentional systems (to which we ascribe emotions, beliefs and desires: e.g., earthworms and humans) are as such through an optimization process. Fear and pain are necessary ingredients for the optimization. Sep 14, 2017 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


One place to start would actually be Aristotle.

Aristotle discusses fear and bravery in Nicomachean Ethics BKs I, II, and III.

The main gist is that bravery is an appropriate response to feelings of fear that stands between rashness and cowardice and applies specifically in two contexts:

  1. battle
  2. politics

because according to Aristotle these are the domains where life is at stake.

The text also highlights two major considerations that have been further developed since:

  1. the idea of emotions as combining both a physiological component and mental component.
  2. emotions as things that can be managed rather than merely suffered pathologically.

Moreover, his work is a major source for contemporary work in the philosophy of emotions (in part because there's a giant gap in the study of emotions between Aristotle and post-WW2).

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