Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 26, number 76-77, abril/agosto 1994
Miedo e incertidumbre
Olbeth Hansberg
Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Abstract: Fear and Uncertainty discusses Robert Gordon’s thesis according
to which fear is an epistemic —as opposed to factive—
emotion inasmuch as S’s fearing p requires S’s being uncertain
whether p or ∼p, and also requires that the uncertainty implicit
in fearing be of a non-deliberative or ‘external’ kind.

Hansberg argues against both parts of this thesis, which purports
to offer part of the structure of the emotion of fear. First,
she says, Gordon cannot account for those cases of weakness of
the will in which an agent fears that when the moment comes
he himself will not act upon his own previous purpose. So an
external uncertainty proves to be not so essential a requisite.

Now, what about the uncertainty, whatever its form, condition?
Hansberg finds several examples in which someone fears p
even though he actually is certain that p (when one fears, for
example, a medical treatment known to be painful, or when
one fears one’s own inminent death, say, by suicide). She also
argues against Gordon’s distinction between propositional fears
and mere ‘states of fear’ with no semantic content, and disapproves
of his inclusion of certain fears —like fear of a violent
death, fear of injury to oneself, and many phobias— in the latter
category. Those supposedly non-propositional states can, and often
do, give rise to propositional states and intentional actions; so
Gordon would have to explain how this is possible: some of those
supposedly mere states of fear need a place in an explanationby-
reasons scheme.

Finally, Hansberg claims that all fears do have a propositional
structure, even though some fears have it in a concealed way.
So, for example, if someone is afraid of death, he is afraid that
he will die young, or that he will go to hell, and so on. Thus it
is always possible to find propositional contents for fears which
apparently have none, although in some cases this might be a
difficult task.

[Laura Lecuona]

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