An Economic Problem of Terror (abstract)

On Saturday, November 18th, I will present a paper called “”The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself: An Economic Problem of Terror.” Here is the abstract for the paper. We will meet at 4:00pm at Cafe Boiling Pot. The paper will take about 20-25 minutes to read through, but of course interruptions are welcome.

A long tradition within philosophy distinguishes fear from anxiety on the basis of their objects: fear is an emotion in response to an object; anxiety is an emotion with no (or perhaps all) objects. Given this separation, how are we to understand a fear of “fear itself”? Drawing on the analysis of fear in Being and Time, this paper argues that Heidegger’s remarks on terror [Entsetzen] are in fact indistinguishable from his analysis of Angst except that Angst seems to know it has no object, whereas terror clings to the illusion of being proportionate to some threatening object. This philosophical analysis, moreover, besets not only the philosophical discourse of terror but also the political discourse of terrorism. So-called “terrorism fear” suffers the economic problem of having a disproportionately high degree of (subjective) excitement in relation to its lack of object, an imbalance that leads terrorism fear to craft its own object rather than merely detecting it.


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