James’s Fears and Wittgenstein’s Therapy

  • Sergio Starkstein


Williams James suggested that the emotions result from the subject’s perception of somatic changes, thus implying that fear does not depend on an appraisal of danger, being instead the result of a complex neuronal reflex. James’s theory was the departure point for the current neurobiological paradigm of fear, which flourished in the second half of the twentieth century. Neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio reduce fear to specific neural mechanisms, which also include metaphysical entities such as visual images, somatic markers, and metarepresentations. Ludwig Wittgenstein warned against the dangers of reductionism, and provided thoughtful remarks directed towards a broad concept of fear, stressing the many ways in which fear can be understood in our lives. Accordingly, fear is no longer reduced to a cybernetic mechanism, but becomes an important thread in the human ‘form of life,’ dynamically changing in quality and intensity, becoming a major determinant in behaviour.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Western AustraliaFremantleAustralia

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