Thursday, May 12, 16:30
Prisma Building Room 50
Emotions figure in many areas of public life, and a number of pressing ethical and political issues invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason. Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied conceptually, with the result that both political theory and practice are often left at a loss. In this talk, I want to examine the emotion of fear and how it has been used in appeals for political reform. In particular, I will look at the welfare reform mechanism of a Universal Basic Income, or Citizen’s Income: an unconditional, automatic, non-means-tested income paid to all members of a political community regardless of other income earned, which is intended to replace a score of means-tested welfare payments, such as unemployment benefits. Arguments in support of a Citizens’ Income often focus on the freedom from fear, anxiety, and uncertainty such an initiative would offer. The idea is that this would not simply be better for well-being, but further could actually increase productivity via the capacity for creative problem-solving and innovation fear impedes. These arguments, however, are made seemingly without consideration of the empirical or theoretical research we have on fear. Here, I draw on the philosophy and cognitive science of fear to evaluate whether the “freedom from fear” argument can deliver what its proponents want.