Life Without Fear. Bertrand Russell. Essay. Reintroduced by P.S.Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
Fear is an ancient feeling of human beings, the right application of which saved mankind from taking too many risks and helped facilitate the continued existence of mankind. Actually fear is the essential pre-requisite to courage. But in the modern day world which is not as danger-prone as the ancient primitive world had been, man fears to even release his breath. World famous philosopher Bertrand Russell analyzes the operation of fear.
Fear can be avoided through the right kind of education.
Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. Principia Mathematica, History Of Western Philosophy, and Marriage And Morals are a few of his famous writings. ‘Life Without Fear’ is an extract from his book ‘New Hopes For A Changing World.’ He is discussing how human life is ruled by fear and how fear can be got rid of. He says, fear prevails over man’s dealings with nature, with other men and with himself. Russell is of the opinion that fear can be avoided in human life through the right kind of education.
Fear is entirely different from the rational apprehension of danger.
Fear of danger, fear of no food, fear of death, fear of destitution and fear of other human beings are natural to all men. Fear is a natural basic reaction which is common to all men and animals. But, Russell says, it has no ground. Fear is a kind of foolishness which makes man unwise in his dealings with nature, with other men and with his self. Fear has no rational basis. Fear and the feeling of danger are different. Feeling of danger is logical when a danger really exists. It enables man to think out what kind of action can be taken against the possible danger. Therefore, feeling of danger is desirable. But unreasonable fear prevents people from admitting danger and taking wise precaution against it. A pre-knowledge of danger enables man to adopt different kinds of treatment for different kinds of dangers.
The limitations imposed by nature on man causing fear also can be bypassed.
Nature imposes certain limitations on man which also cause fear. Short supply of food and raw materials and the unavoidable death are fearsome limitations imposed on man by nature. Even Arch Bishops someday thought that drought and excessive rain could be prayed against. People were urged to gather to pray against Plague which only helped to spread the disease. But the days of superstitions are gone. The limitations imposed by nature on man also can be bypassed which are what history is made with. Mankind did not end with recurring floods or the ice age. It continued its march onward, conquering natural obstacles on the way. Discovery of fire and fur and fat helped harness the ice ages. Inventing row-boats helped survive floods. Even natural limitations can be effectively dealt with by science. By more labour, more food can be produced. By better methods, the use of raw materials can be economized. By wise living, death can be postponed. The scientific attitude has the two-fold merit of helping not only understanding the evil but also providing the intelligence to eradicate it.
A man’s fear of other human beings is logical and reasonable.
Fear of other human beings is reasonable and somewhat logical. Aggressiveness has only increased in this world. We all fear, someone will do things harmful to us. We bark at our neighbour for fear that he will attack us, and he barks at us back for the same reason. In such situations, a display of friendliness will do wonders and oil the wheels of life to make them run smoothly.
‘Saying thank you here and there
Saves a lot of strife,
Saying thank you as you go on
Oils the wheels of life.’
There, non-resistance diminishes the aggressive impulses in the other. But in some other circumstances it would be showing courage that would be wiser for the occasion. We cannot flee from facing real dangers. When they come one after another, we conquer them one after the other.
[First prepared in 2004]
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Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of ‘Swan, The Intelligent Picture Book’.
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Interesting exploration of fear …
Fear not, dear Rama Devi Nina,
Fear isn’t going any where,
It is one ancient primitive bird
Flitting across man’s mortal sky.