This article covers my interpretations of the author's work, and discusses the philosophical views presented in "Philosophy of Fearism," by Desh Subba, a Nepali philosopher, poet, and novelist based in Hong Kong. "Philosophy of Fearism," aims to provide a practical means of examining our holistic responses to fear and encourages an independent exploration of fundamental questions about our perception of Fear. The text addresses a wide range of topics and offers unique perspectives on the nature of the world, ultimately presenting our responses to Fear as something to view positively rather than something to run away from.
Why do some words start with a capital letter? (i.e. Being, Fear..): This is a tool used by philosophers to let you know that they’re referring to the philosophical concept, rather than the surface layer material. Fear (capital F) would refer to the concept Subba builds upon, whereas fear (lowercase f) indicates the typical use of a word in our everyday.
- Subba’s novel viewpoint challenges common interpretations of Fear from around the world.
- His work influences and includes international communities ranging from politics, philosophy, economics, and engineering, and he lives his philosophy by presenting new voices in philosophy and journalism and inviting open criticisms
- Philosophy of Fearism is presented as a necessary factor for authentic existence, rather than something to run away from, and aims to inspect our existence without imposing meaning or feelings onto the subsequent description.
- Subba’s work proposes a practical means for examining our embodied responses to various factors and platforming the ideas of those around him, rather than limiting perspectives to his merelyhis own.
I am a fourth-year undergraduate student of Clinical Laboratory Science and Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth and Veteran of the U.S. Army. This review attempts to explicate my personal interpretation of the ideas and discussions presented by Desh Subba to a broader, philosophically inclined audience.
“After all, my greatest pleasure comes from philosophical conversation, even if I’m only a listener...”
I recently finished the text ‘Philosophy of Fearism’ by Desh Subba, a Nepali philosopher, poet, and novelist currently living with his family in Hong Kong. Subba’s text echoes the early works of existentialist philosophers and journalists, and Subba’s theories are well known for their ability to influence scholars, journalists, and philosophers around the world. His text “Philosophy Of Fearism” (2014), uses its novel viewpoint as a way to challenge the readily available interpretations we’ve all run into on the internet, especially those of misunderstood or potentially undervalued thinkers. His ideas in this book reach into a broad range of topics including bipartisan politics, philosophy, economics, and engineering. His attempt to describe his unique viewpoint on the surrounding world offers novel philosophical perspectives on the nature of the world around us.
What’s the Gist?
While there's a comically large amount of truth to the idea that philosophy is the study of making more questions, the theme of my interpretation suggests that we “start at the very beginning", a very pleasant place to start. Personally, I attempt to answer this question by showing how a word is used in order to better understand it, almost like rules to a game.
By describing fear as the underlying principle behind the coming-into-Being of all Beings-in-the-world, Subba proposes a way to view fear as a driving force, rather than something to run from. Philosophy, and phenomenology (referring to the phenomena of experience) in particular attempt to teach us how to inspect our own lives in an attempt to describe the fundamental experience of simply being present in the world in consideration of the human understanding that we exist to some degree as - as weird as it may sound - “bodies” in a specific location at a certain time, and how the variety in that experience can better inform our understanding of what it means to live a good life, particularly without imposing any meaning or feelings onto that description.
Fearism and Philosophy
Philosophy of Fearism is an attempt to identify fear as something “larger” yet still essentially contained within the self. In an attempt to isolate the essential features of psychological responses to various neurobiological, spiritual, and social factors, Subba offers a practical means for answering this question on our own, rather than limiting it to his own perspective, which is all too common in contemporary philosophical and academic discourse. Consider Thales of Miletus, who "was made fun of by a playful Thracian serving - girl" while he was "gazing upwards while doing astronomy," and "made fun of him for being eager to know the things in the heavens, but failing to notice what was just behind him and right by his feet.” ((11A9) Plato, Theaetetus 174a)
“The story goes that when they were reproaching him for his poverty, supposing that philosophy is useless, he learned from his astronomy that the olive crop would be large. Then, while it was still winter, he obtained a little money and made deposits on all the olive presses both in Miletus and in Chios, and since no one bid against him, he rented them cheaply. When the time came, suddenly many requested the presses all at once, and he rented them out on whatever terms he wished, and so he made a great deal of money. In this way he proved that philosophers can easily be wealthy if they wish, but this is not what they are interested in.”
((11A10) Aristotle, Politics I.11 1259a9 - 18)
Whether or not this is literal advice or not is up for interpretation, but history would be hard-faced to put the Rockefellers on the other side of this argument. Either way, I think that Subba’s view on Fear offers a fascinating view on our responses to things that cause Fear
For myself, Philosophy allows us to encounter and bridge the gap between new and old things alike, and explain our subjective experiences in a way that lets us play life as a metaphorical “tetris” rather than “jenga” - which is to say we should see the new ‘blocks’ we encounter as opportunities to find a perfect spot for them on non - specific principle, rather than the inherited and out of style of trying to leave the bare minimum by taking away from another. In this way, we can begin to see our mistakes as opportunities for growth rather than things to be fearful of.
When things we feel ashamed of can no longer gain control over us, we start to feel realize that it’s all kind of silly when we use them as authentic opportunities to make the cracks in our art into something beautiful, similar to the Japanese concept of Kintsugi mentioned (between the lines) by American Philosopher Elizabeth Woolridge-Grant.
Philosophy of Fearism:
Since Heraclitus, we've known that change is constant (through his logos) If it’s true that we can’t step foot in the same river twice, why do we continue to use old terms for new rivers?
“It is not possible to step twice into the same river. . . . It scatters and again comes together, and approaches and recedes.”
((B91) Plutarch, On the E at Delphi 392b)
“We step into and we do not step into the same rivers. We are and we are not.” ((B49a) Heraclitus Homericus, Homeric Questions)
Why should you stick with Hegel if Foucault suits you better? In Nietzschean terms, Subba takes the view that not every scale on the dragon “thou shalt” has to be rejected, just self - inspected. Subba’s philosophy presents the idea that we can use Fear to better diagnose our collective but independent senses of authentic Being-in-the-world. To Subba, we are able to overcome our response to fear when we are able to help others create their own sense of purpose - else one risks repaying their teacher poorly. (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
Fearism hopes to provide a philosophy that informs us that we are best able to realize our transcendence when the veils of Maya are lifted, and we reason the shadows on the wall cast by pure facts and logic as that of Socrates, rather than the reality that it’s Euthyphro playing Nero’s fiddle. From this newer, more ontological perspective on fear, Subba highlights why we as humans have good reason to be cognizant of the impact that failing to adopt more actionable, humanitarian viewpoints on topics like better living conditions or transportation options, climate change and gender inequality would have on our flourishing.
There’s a reason all roads lead to Rome, and that very analytic circle on the Aristotelian Wheel of Logic is largely attributed to Gaius Octavion, whose successes in establishing a long - lasting empire were largely derived out of his early interchange of culture both into and out of his city. If we want to overcome Fear in our lives, we can also look to Viktor Frankl, for example, who proposes the idea that happiness can only “fall into your lap” as a product of something else, it cannot be acquired as an end in itself. Thus, the pursuit of a personal relation to the world is the pursuit of happiness, and seeing fear as inhibitory impedes on that fundamental and unique ability.
When we instead view Fear as an opportunity to grow, or as a chance to find a place for something new to belong rather than trying to break it, we untether ourselves from the Heideggerian tendency to establish a norm or a “way one does things” based on social structures and based more on an authentic sense of Being-in-the-world that protects not only ourselves, but those around us and within our community. If we want to flourish, not just survive, we have to consider how we treat not only the people that look and act like us, but also create a means for new life and expression to reveal itself to us through the environment around us, which cannot happen if we continue to destroy our planet for temporary gains. Instead, for Subba, the actual way we turn Fear into fearful responses (i.e. so called Gestalt Principles) is something we, at least in part, learn from those around us, and the same is true for our own perception of others. Fearful responses prevent us from seeing our own futures as beautiful and/or worthy of hope or love, so we fail to understand the beauty of things that may be shown to us in new ways.
In what Subba refers to as the “village times”, for example, "seidr" in roman, viking, and pagan religious/shamanic practices would be seen as extremely feminine and shameful for men to practice because it encouraged them to dress up in women’s clothing, even despite the cultural tendency to regularly seek the advice of women in all matters, as documented by Tacitus in Germania, or MPs ‘I’m a Lumberjack’.
Rather than embracing our neighbors in times of change, we too often impose a belief that we cannot work together with our environment or ‘biosphere’ because of perceived differences of those around us, thereby adopting western beliefs in place of longer - lasting concepts like paramatma. We can look to historical figures that challenged these overly violent hero-figures as far back as Hildebrandslied, who fails to grasp the message from his elders that violence does not solve problems, which underlies german culture to this day, shown even through Nietzsche and Goethe, who clearly reaped the benefits of a more appropriate understanding of how we encounter fear. In Will to Power, for example, Nietzsche writes:
“300. (Spring - Fall 1887) Suppressed and effaced heresy in morality.
- master morality
The abandonment of what was seen as “ugly pagan” interpretations of the world was vital in establishing the master - slave morality that Nietzsche associated with the European domination over Europe following the gross and despicable misuse of his and his sisters work by the Nazi party.
Goethe elaborates sightly more on the topic than the posthumously archived WIll to Power that Nietzsche’s sister frantically gathered and attempted to organize from the hoards of notebooks of an increasingly maddening Friedrich, instead expressing these ideas with a bit more prose:
"You are perplexed, my love, by this thousandfold mixed profusion, Flowering tumultuously everywhere over the garden grounds;
So many names you are hearing, but one suppresses another, Echoing barbarously the sound makes in the ear.
Each of their shapes is alike, yet none resembles the other, Thus the whole of the choir points to a secret law,
Points to a holy puzzle. I wish, lovely friend, that I were able to Happily hand you at once the disentangling word!— "
The Metamorphosis of the Plants
The Roman Elegies, for example, likely present an example of what awaits those who are willing to adopt and platform the more “feminine” perspectives Goethe found so abundant in Palermo (where, of note, rules on who could play what roles were much more loosely defined & subsequently outperformed the limited Shakespearean casting of Britain’s culture). This applies to Subba’s concept of Linguistic survival, commenting on our desire to create sentences or phrases that will always be remembered perfectly as a way to ensure we are remembered. In general, we want to ensure we are remembered, but Subba encourages us to ask how often we find ourselves doing the same for others.
When Elisabeth and Friedrich Nietzsche discuss for what is now translated as a 'revaluation of all morals', for example, they don’t advocate for anarchy or violence, as this would cause us to choose what we are told rather than what is right, not only what is pious - and that (to me) is to love and care for the people around you, and to do your best to lend a hand to others where you can. Similarly, Subba uses Fear as a way to show that there's nothing inherently wrong with complying in society, and encourages us to pursue a sort of "eustress" vs "distress".
All too often, we prevent others from sharing new perspectives or ideas because we fail to consider them as having something to offer in the first place. This problem was easily solved in ‘village times’ where new perspectives were vital and brought great potential to the people, who readily worked to understand them.
Subba uses this writing as a socratic investigation of the nature of our experience of fear, showing that actions we take during “fight or flight” responses are not always reflective of our essence as humans. The validity of Subba's arguments are reflected by Republic, for example, which shows that Thrasymachus major failure was that he lacked the self - reflective capacity to accept that other people may have equally valid but different fundamental unique experiences within the same world.
Subba’s view suggests that we consciously adjust our response to Fear through careful self - examination, enabling us to increase our potential for realizing the alleged Nietzschean ubermensch - after all, the Last Man is most often the one pulled from the herd. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
According to Subba’s philosophy, consciousness lets us select certain things out of the foreground that have to be reached out into, rather than leaving the human experience up to symbols pasted onto background states, waiting to be recognized.
Subba writes that, although we associate some things we encounter in our life - like animals or weapons as causative agents of fear, fearfulness, in reality, arises out of an error in our own ability to comprehend new concepts, for which we feel reflects on our sense of competency in society. The reason someone purchases them, in my experience, is because they are afraid of his own weakness and thereby attempts to respond by inducing fear without cause, which, in reality, is just anxiety (according to Heidegger). The way we turn Fear into fearful responses (i.e. so called Gestalt Principles) is something we, at least in large part, learn from those around us, and the same is true for our perception onto others. When we act in ways that cause harm to others or ours, be it actively or passively, we isolate ourselves by encouraging fear in place of discussion. The risk we run into is the exclusion of many perspectives that, at a minimum, are worthy of consideration.
Overly Fearful responses prevent us from seeing new things or ideas as beautiful and potentially worthy of consideration, preventing us from seeing the world authentically and developing a personal relation with an environment that encourages the growth of all life forms. We prevent the development of not just others but also ourselves when we shame or “other” the people around us who are attempting to learn or reintegrate into society by inserting their own sense of “how one does things” onto another's, thereby treading on their autonomy. Similarly, Sun Tzu might highlight the power in keeping people from investigating their own personal forms or identities. Marcus Aurelius also writes that “the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” For Subba, we should consider the view of Fear as a source of color in the life project of becoming the "purple thread in the long white toga." (Epictetus).
It is one thing to overcome yourself, but can you help others overcome theirs, even if it causes Fear?
For more information on his philosophy, Subba’s other works, such as Trans - Philosophism (2021) and Fearmorphosis (2023) which discuss these ideas further, and highlight the need for contribution from post WWII - era existential phenomenological perspectives, especially those wishing to study complex and challenging topics like embodiment and free will. As always, Philosophy is - to me - a home for discussion about anything and everything, and phenomenology is a field which seeks to understand and preserve the viewpoints and perspectives of others and ourselves in the most genuine ways possible; Subba’s work highlights the value in learning from, rather than simply ignoring or rejecting, the philosophical mockingbird that is Fear.
[James Micell Published this article on his Linked In page. He permitted to republish her on the Fearlessness Movement ning -DS].