terror management theory (10)

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My critique notes, as a fearologist, of two pages on the evolutionary paradigm used by TMT core theorists and researchers [1] from pp. 66-67 in their recent 2015 book. As much as I respect TMT (terror management theory) and its universal attempt to understand human behavior (drawing heavily on Ernest Becker's work)--I find more and more  there are deep philosophical (theoretical) problems in this work and in TMT's very lens it uses to try to understand human behavior--of which it overtly focuses on fear management as a primary shaper of human behavior in human evolution and history (which I agree on as that primary shaper). However, how the TMT folks go about their argumentation is troublesome in that it seems not to be self-reflexive as to its bias as Fear Management System-5 [2] itself doing the discourse construction of the fear management (i.e., terror management) that they are describing. I won't say more... I know the above image cuts off lots... my scanner cannot figure out how to not do this... and, so, whatever, the case I am making is based on a fearological position and theory of Fear Management Systems which is core to my own theorizing on fear management/education and beyond. 

I share this note-taking and text from their book--so as to stir up and truth out what is actually going down with TMT these days, as it grows in popularity and applications, but needs a lot more critique than it gets, but that ought to come from specialized fields like fearology that study fear management--from a transdisciplinary perspective--unlike TMT itself which is still social psychology-based, and what I point to in my notes here somewhat, it is dominated by existential-cognitivism (and, the ideology of that way of thinking, of that empiricial paradigm of experimentalism and of general modernist thinking for the most part)--these, latter terms I throw out here because they need a lot more clarification as critique of TMT, I realize, but they are coming to me as I study TMT more and more. I'll leave this here... a much larger work is required for a thorough challenge to these dominating hegeomonic and paradigmatic components of TMT, which is a terror management theory (i.e., fear management theory) that is dubious on several grounds, as I say, its bias as FMS-5 itself and as existential-cognitivism. Oh, and on top of that, I keep wondering if Ernest Becker himself, if he were alive today, would be 'happy' on all levels as to the integrity (or not) of TMT, which the latter is supposed to be based on Beckerian philosophy and theories. Questions need to be asked. Another question I keep asking myself and have not fully answered it is: What would make a fearlessness psychology today? And, I look to TMT, and other theories, and I am not satisfied they would meet the criteria, although, they may not even want to--yet, they are, as I see it, on the way to such a fearlessness psychology--arguably, the latter takes humanity beyond fear-based psychologies (and FMSs) themselves. The Fear Problem cannot be solved by fear-based psychologies (and their concomitant fear-based curricula of fear management/education; and TMT is included because it is FMS-5 under my classification system). 

[p.s. for more FM blogs on TMT search this website and/or go to https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/fearanalysis-2-wilber-s-induction-to-terror-management-theory

Notes: 

1. Solomon, S., Greenberg, J. & Pyszczynski, T. (2015). The worm at the core: On the role of death in life. Random House. [although TMT has many authors and researchers now a days, these three are the core co-founders of the theory]; and note, they do not cite my 31 years of researching fear management

2. Fear Management Systems theory, way too complex to outline here, is evolutionary too--but best to check my thinking out as delineated in general in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education in the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield; note, my cursory classification of the discourse domination in TMT (using pp. 66-67 as exemplar) also includes, besides FMS-5, some FMS-6b (typical of most all existentialist discourses on fear management). FMS theory, revolves around and upon the evolution of consciousness theorizing of Ken Wilber, integral philosopher, amongst others. In my version of FMS theory there are ten evolved 'structures' for doing fear management (or terror management, it matters not), I name them FMS-0 to FMS-9. You can see, TMT's largely FMS-5 is modernist and 1/2 way in terms of complex fear management systems available on this planet. That's great ,but in a sense it is 'half-baked' or 'half way' on the way to even better fear management systems. That said, FMS theory (integrally-informed) holds that no one FMS of the ten is absolutely more functional than any other--all have a role to play in the evolution of consciousness (individuals, and cultures). 

 

 

 

 

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Ernest Becker, cultural anthropologist, 1924-74. Won a Pulitzer Prize at the end of his life for his book The Denial of Death. 

I have recently been studying his work and writing about his important thinking for today, especially his contribution to Fear Studies, and specifically to terror management as an extreme existentialist form of fear management. 

The following Tech. Paper No. 99 I devoted to analyzing a bit of what Ernest Becker's work has to do with Education as a field and as a reality of socialization, and then summarized the ways various educators (not that there are many) have engaged Becker's work and what potential biases there are in their ways of interpreting his work. I then propose some alternatives and encourage a good deal more study of Becker for learning and teaching, curriculum development and for handling the kind of terrifying world that is here and coming as cascading global crises are inevitable. His work has much to offer us. 

See Tech. Paper No. 99:  "Ernest Becker's Educational Legacy: A Critical Reflection". https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/112381

See also Tech. Paper No. 108: "A Review of "Immortality Project" Concept: Mis-interpretation by Terror Management Theory" https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/112499?show=full 

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"...the [research] findings show that how we choose to deal with our fear, critically depends on our cultural worldview" - Bobby Azarian (2020) 

"We have an existential threat on our hands, our Left-Right divide, I believe, is by far the most important divide we face....This is the urugent need of the next 50 years." - Jonathan Haidt (2016) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-_Az5nZBBM]

Dr. Bobby Azarian, cognitive neuroscientist, has put together an excellent basic video on the social and cognitive science research that can help explain why "fear" is at core the factor of political, religious and other forms of polarization in social systems. He has worked with the Terror Management Theory (of Ernest Becker, et al.), whereby in this video he takes us through a rapid teaching of major issues and findings. He offers, interestingly, a "cosmic perspective" as basis for a worldview that will be an anti-dote to the polarizing and violent course that American society and a lot of the world is heading down--including the direction toward fascism and authoritarianism, etc. I highly recommend Azarian's (fast-lane hyper) teaching video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvMkz1wy6_U

[Note: as much as Terror Management Theory and neurobiology of fear, and cognitive sciences offer an important direction of knowledge to combat the effects of fear as an emotion/feeling (i.e., a response to threat), I have always questioned how these disciplines and fields of study have not really added much at all to reconceptualizing fear (or 'fear'), fearuality, fear management/education, fearism, etc.). I think there needs to be a lot more dialogue between these knowledge domains and with Fear Management Theory as I promote, then more potent combinations will inevitably lead to a better "fear education" for the 21st century. ]

ADDITIONAL READING:

Azarian apparently has been researching a good deal on "fear" in political orientation, along with many others, it is a vast field of research which I support in general. I found this following article a good one to challenge stereotypes (I offer an excerpt only with link to the full article):

Wrong: Conservatism Isn’t About Fear

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  heartland-american  •  2 years ago  •  194 comments
No, Liberals, You’re Wrong: Conservatism Isn’t About Fear
 

Liberals don’t get conservatives. New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt, formerly a liberal himself, showed how much more liberals misunderstand conservatives than vice versa. And when they get conservatives wrong, often it’s by saying we’re “afraid.” Irrationally afraid, even; in fact, we’re “driven by fear.” They’re wrong: conservatism isn’t about fear. But they keep repeating it anyway.

Take the Psychology Today article, “Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives’ Political Attitudes.” (I just love it when they portray us in such a healthy light, don’t you?)

Biased Interpretations (Part 1)

The author, Bobby Azarian, tells us conservatives have a problem. People on the right “fear new experiences,” says. Based on what evidence, you ask? It’s the stuff college students keep in their dorm rooms. Researchers at Berkeley found that liberal students have more travel-related items, while conservatives have more planning- and cleaning-related items.

“This tells us that liberals more often seek adventure and novel experiences,” says Azarian. “Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to prefer a more ordered, disciplined lifestyle.” Okay, I get that there’s a difference there. I’ve got several questions, though. (First rule of reading science journalism: Ask lots of questions.)

First, why weren’t fear or anxiety even mentioned in the original research report? (They’re brought up briefly in the literature review section, but not where the current research was discussed.)

Second, what about the thousands upon thousands of conservative Christians who take mission trips to less-developed, often deadly parts of the world every year? How is Azarian going to explain this “fear” to them?

How on earth do planning, orderliness and discipline equate to fear?

And third, based strictly on Azarian’s article alone, how on earth do planning, orderliness and discipline equate to fear?

Conservatives’ dorm rooms only reflect fear if fear is what you’re looking for.....He tells us that MRIs show that the amygdala, a fear-related brain region, is larger on average in conservatives than in liberals. “It is possible,” says Azarian, “that an oversized amygdala could create a heightened sensitivity that may cause one to habitually overreact to anything that appears to be a potential threat, whether it actually is one or not.”

 [excerpt only]

 Read the entire rebuttal to Azarian et al.,:  https://stream.org/no-liberals-youre-wrong-conservatism-isnt-about-fear/

[Note: my own take as a fearologist is that it will generally be a fallacy of fear-mongering if either side of the political spectrum is caught in a 'game' of 'you have more fear; no, you have more fear' --etc. I have labled this the Fear Wars, long ago. This is where fearology can contribute a whole new perspective on that 'game' (dead-end) and truly lift the dialogue to include the typical fear(s) talk which is valid but take it to a new level where polarization can be dissolved in more potent ways, theoretically... that's a much longer conversation but involves my own (amongst others) work on a fearlessness psychology]

 

 

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I have just published a new Tech Paper 94.pdf, "Dialogue Between Terror Management Theory and Fear Management Education" based upon my recent FearTalk 9 with guest Sheldon Solomon, one of the core founders of TMT and other materials in which we both are looking at how to bring our work together in a new synthesis. 

  1. R. Michael Fisher,[i] Ph.D.  2020       Technical Paper No. 94

                                                          Abstract

There’s something ‘wrong’ in the field of fear management, the author had expressed in his 2010 tome, The World’s Fearlessness Teachings. Using a transdisciplinary approach to fear and fearology, he has sought how best to engage other theories. Within philosophy of existentialism (a la Ernest Becker) and the applications to social psychology (empirical studies of human behavior via Pyszczynski et al.), he found their contributions on terror (fear) management intriguing. The author, a specialist in fear management/education (FME) has been citing and at times teaching about terror management theory (TMT) since the early 2000s. In 2007 he published his first attempt to integrate TMT through an “integral” lens, to serve as one way to up-grade what he saw as some of the weaknesses in TMT, even though he highly admires TMT. In 2020 he engaged in an in depth interview dialogue with Sheldon Solomon, one of the three core founders of TMT, and it is this Technical Paper No. 94 which offers an extensive transcript from this exchange. As well, the author includes a letter to Solomon on potential ways of upgrading TMT, especially as the world spins within the extraordinary challenges of the coronavirus epidemic and lots of death—never mind, the overall context of an Anthropocene era, which both Solomon and the author acknowledge and attempt to offer good FME.   

 

[i] Fisher is an Adjunct Faculty member of the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada. He is an educator and fearologist and co-founder of In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989- ) and Research Institute (1991- ) and lead initiator of the Fearlessness Movement ning (2015- ). The Fearology Institute was created by him recently to teach international students about fearology as a legitimate field of studies and profession. He is also founder of the Center for Spiritual Inquiry & Integral Education and is Department Head at CSIIE of Integral & 'Fear' Studies. Fisher is an independent scholar, public intellectual and pedagogue, lecturer, author, consultant, researcher, coach, artist and Principal of his own company (http://loveandfearsolutions.com). He has four leading-edge books: The World’s Fearlessness Teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century (University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield), Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue (Xlibris) and Fearless engagement of Four Arrows: The true story of an Indigenous-based social transformer (Peter Lang), Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism (Xlibris); India, a Nation of Fear and Prejudice (Xlibris); The Marianne Williamson Presidential Phenomenon (Peter Lang).  Currently, he is developing The Fearology Institute to teach courses. He can be reached at: r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

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I am pleased to introduce the social psychology researcher Dr. Pelin Kesebir who has for several years been studying fear (e.g., anxiety, terror, and role of culture as a buffer to death anxiety); and has acknowledged in recent correspondence with me the critical importance of "fear" in societies overall. I included the above excerpt from one of her articles (2014) in J. of Personality & Social Psychology 106(4), 610-623. To read full article A Quiet Ego.pdf 

Note: Kesebir is inspired and researches generally under the Terror Management Theory (sub-field) in social psychology, an area I have respected and cited in many of my own publications for decades. Very important empirical research is offered in TMT that supports and critiques the way we engage with fear (and its management). I look forward to more conversations with Dr. Kesebir and may all Fearlessness Movement ning members perhaps find time to read some of this work and comment. For more info. from Dr. Kesebir, contact: kesebir@gmail.com 

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Dr. Sheldon Solomon, social experimental psychologist (re: Terror Management Theory = TMT)... is one of several very important researchers on "mortal terror" (i.e., fear of death) as the universal ("proven") core of all malignant human behaviors individually and collectively--at least, that's what has been suggested by TMT research and the existential philosophy behind it for the last 40 years or so (thanks to writing of the late Ernest Becker). I have followed this work off and on and found it very insightful and yet to be truly tapped in 'Fear' Studies ... 

I recommend going to this video talk on the dim future of humanity ahead (unless we solve the Fear Problem): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuJhD5TkX-0

Note: I agree with much (not all) of TMT... much of the basis of TMT is supported, I'd argue in the philosophy of fearlessness (Fisher) and philosophy of fearism (Subba) and philosophy of fear (Eneyo) and others... I agree with TMT in its depiction and theory (supported by a good deal of cross-cultural evidence) that "culture" is a fear management strategy overall. In my Fear Management Systems Theory (Fisher, 2010), I give this more differentiation based on v-memes (worldviews) theories in Spiral Dynamics integral (theory).  

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New Teaching Videos: R. Michael Fisher

I have slowly been getting media savvy and starting to put out to public access some 15-30 min. teaching videos on themes related, more or less, to my passions and fear and fearlessness. 

The first one was done by Greg Wendt, a film-maker in Carbondale, IL, USA, on my approach to coloring and aesthetic development re: fearlessness practice.

The second one produced by my own amateur means from my home in Calgary, AB, Canada, on "Ethical Practice of Fearology"

The third one also produced on my own, is "Peer Counselling Outside of Distress"  (on my passion to bring Liberation Peer Counseling back to life after a long hiatus)

4. "Ethical Referents of Fearology"

5.  "The Fearology Institute: Introduction"

6.  "Study of Fear: A New Turn"

7.  "Developing a Critical Literacy on Fear"

8.  "Fisher Responds to Michael Moore: On Fear"

9.  "The 'Big Four' Talk: Advancements in Liberation"

10.  "Fear Vaccine Process: Two Stories"

11.  "Path of Fearlessness: Lucid Dreaming, Visions and Alters"

12.  "Fear(ism): Philosophy Along the Difficult Path"

13.  "Michael Moore Meets Fearologist-II"

14.  "FearTalk 1: Four Arrows & R. Michael Fisher"

15.  "Do's and Don'ts of Fearology"

16.  "FearTalk2: Luke Barnesmoore & R. Michael Fisher"

17. "Understanding Jordan Peterson 1: Social Implications"

18.  "Greta, Fear and Youths' Future(s)"

19.  "FearTalk 3: Luke Barnesmoore & R. Michael Fisher"

20.  "Understanding Jordan Peterson 2: Conflict Implications"

21.  "Understanding Jordan Peterson 3: Fear Implications"

22.  "Resistance to Fear Understanding"

23.  "Fisher's Big Discovery on Fear and Motivation"

24.  "When Fear meets Fearlessness"

25.  "New Ethical Leadership: Marianne Williamson"

26. Feartalk 4 (Part 1): Nicole Rallis & Barbara Bickel

27. Feartalk 4 (Part 2): Nicole Rallis & Barbara Bickel

28. L. E. T. 1: Shifting from a Coping Culture to Healing Culture" 

29. New Ethical Leadership: Marianne Williamson 2

30. The Great Citizen: Future Process Politics and Learning

31. History of Transformation 1: Who's Afraid of Change

32. L. E. T. 2: Process of Balance

33. History of Transformation 2: 

34. The Great Collapse: How Afraid Should We Be?

35. L. E. T. 3 : Reclaiming Our 10 Natural Healers

36. Depth of Psychology: Rebirth in the 21st Century

37. Marianne Williamson 3: Love and Fear

38. Psychotic 1: Loss of Baselines for Sanity 

39. L. E. T. 4 : Emotional Fitness & Existential Capacity

40. FearTalk 5: Janet Sheppard & R. Michael Fisher

41. L. E. T. 5: Stealing Attention is Fear

42. Ken Wilber: Unique Philosopher for Our Time

43. Defining Philosophical Disability: Notes to the Bitter End

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Also, I've produced with Barbara Bickel, a couple recent book trailers on my new books: 

"Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows: The True Story of an Indigenous-based Social Transformer"  (published 2018)

"Fear, Law and Criminology: Critical Issues in Applying the Philosophy of Fearism" (2018, still to be published in early autumn)

 

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Over a year and half ago I sent a copy of these notes on working philosophical premises to Desh Subba, although he has not responded, I think they are still worth more inquiry, whomever is interested. I'm sure if I thought more about these today, I'd add more new ones, but this is lots for starters. As a serious scholar and proponent of the philosophy of fearism since late 2014, I wish to see more philosophy and less rhetoric, opinions, and such... as this philosophy is going to need a good deal of rigorous thought before it will be accepted seriously by an real philosophers or graduate courses today in higher education, and in the future. The aim I have is to make philosophy of fearism justifiable through testing it empirically, as well as arguing it rationally. The high gold standard in this I have witnessed over the years in watching Ernest Becker's existential philosophy be eventually translated into social psychology (i.e., terror management theory) and 'proven' that his philosophy has some valid truths that are very important to our world today.

PHILOSOPHY OF FEARISM: 9 Premises (version 1.0)

R. Michael Fisher, Aug. 18, 2015

[Note: none of these premises are fixed in stone; I chose them to build common ground in each of our diverse understandings of fearism and its philosophy; they are presented here only as working ideas to be changed and grown as we gain input from various sources/research, experience and good critiques.]

A philosophy of fearism has the basic agenda of raising conscious awareness of the nature and role of fear in our lives and helping us to understand it better, in order to improve the quality (happiness) in our lives along a path to potential “fearless” existence. To do so, claims are made, often with premises that are not yet fully examined—this is the underlying purpose of this philosophical exercise. Volumes could be written on any one or a few of the premises, and sub-sections, as well as the interconnectivity of all of them together. Other premises and sub-sections also exist and can be added, but this is at least a start of examining a core of them more closely.

 

Premise 1Fear actually is the predominant motivator of the foundational aspects of human existence/behavior.

              1a. Should we not therefore build a philosophy (e.g., fearism[1]) around the predominant (if not, the greatest) motivator?

                         1a (i). What if Love is the predominant motivator? How do we know?

                                    What implications do the Love vs. Fear dynamics portend?

              1b. Humans are always, more or less, for better or worse, managing fear(s)

              1c. If 1, 1a, 1b are true, then, what kind of fear management/education (and socialization and governance) is best suited to these truths?

 

Premise 2Humanity, in general, is experiencing a precipice of extreme fear at this time in history, of which it is thought to be a most serious crisis that cannot be put off analysis without grave danger to our species and the planet’s ecosystems.

              2a. What reliable and diverse (cross-disciplinary) sources can we accrue in order to reasonably invoke the crisis of the current Fear Problem, without panic?

Premise 3The current state of knowledge about fear is inadequate to the demands of the Fear Problem, and this has caused a great deal of unnecessary suffering

 

             3a.  Philosophy of fearism is the best way to remedy this crisis and better than alternative philosophies, myths, religions and other ways of trying to manage

                    the Fear Problem—in that sense, how can we justify a “dephilosophy” agenda within the current philosophy of fearism critique?

              3b.  Contradictions in our society’s general knowledge of fear need to be revealed and arguments (based on the philosophy of fearism) made that

                    respond to them and “correct” them if possible  

              3c. Where is the philosophy of fearism most weak, philosophically? and/or scientifically?

              3d. How can a philosophy of fearism self-reflexively “correct” itself in order to avoid becoming an ideology (embedded in ideologism)?

 

Premise 4A philosophy of fearism is unique (and important) because it recognizes the Fear Problem not merely as an individual psychological problem, but as

 central to evolution itself and developmental conceptualizations of human nature, the human condition and human potential.

 

            4a. As with some other perspectives, a philosophy of fearism accepts there is no one and only right definition or meaning of fear, but it is multiple and will

                 likely always be such.

             4b. What is a substantive ontology of fear that is useful to, and consistent with the defining and making meaning of fear within a philosophy of fearism agenda?

             4c. What is a rigorous epistemology of fear consistent with the philosophy of fearism agenda?

             4d. What is a rigorous axiology of fear consistent with the philosophy of fearism agenda?

                         4d(i).  How do we know whether fear is positive or negative in value?

             4e. the dialectical nature of fear and fearlessness ought to be understood within the evolution of the global concept of a “spirit of fearlessness” and the world’s

                  Fearlessness Movement(s)[2]

 

 Premise 5The critical determining unit (expression) of “fear-based” brings forth the ethical axis upon which the philosophy of fearism rests in terms of usefulness

for discernment of quality, if not liberation.

               5a. Is there a way to accurately discern and evaluate “fear-based” feeling, thinking, acting? If so, how? What practical applications as well?

 

Premise 6Fear evolves (develops) “naturally” towards Fearless (i.e., a telos), at the level of individuals, groups, and entire eras of history

 

             6a. We are currently (globally) in a peak of an “Extreme Fear Age”

             6b. Is a philosophy of fearism a ‘natural’ response to the Extreme Fear Age?

             6c. Is there a precedent for what we are going through in history, that may be useful to us as a global community?

                       6d. Is the East or West more matured (evolved) generally, to best assist us through this "Extreme Fear Age" (a la Subba)? Why?

             6e. Are the less developed nations less fear-full than the developed nations? And Why? And, what implications does this have for world developmental theories                  and practices?

 

Premise 7: The evolution of consciousness, like fear, is moving toward a "Fearless Age" and Society (a la Subba)—not that it will occur all at the same time in the same  

places but it is at least probably, expectable, but not totally inevitable.

 

            7a. On what substantive, and diverse grounds, can such a positive claim of telos be defended by a philosophy of fearism?

            7b. And on those same grounds, what arguments can be utilized to counteract the predominant discourses that suggest no such movement or telos exists?

 

Premise 8: The greatest fear is humanly created, in the mind, and thus, the greatest corrective to fear is humanly created, in the mind.

 

            8a. On what substantive, and diverse grounds, can such a claim be made?

            8b. And on those same grounds, what alternative arguments could also be put forward that are different but complementary to a philosophy of fearism?

            8c. What alternative arguments would go against (and/or modify) Premise 8?

 

Premise 9: The philosophy of fearism (as currently articulated) is adequate to being called a legitimate, new, and essential philosophy to the betterment of

humankind and the earth ecosystems.

             9a. What arguments are for this and what arguments are against accepting this



[1] Through out these premises, as building a defense for this philosophy, I am using Desh Subba’s (2014) version of a philosophy of fearism (sometimes, he refers to as a theory of fearism)—this, is an exercise intended to ferret out the thinking and support for claims he has made, of which I mostly agree but realize they need at times to be filled-out in creating a better convincing defense. My own theory of fearism-t is not included here.

[2] This is particularly (if not uniquely) important to Fisher’s philosophy of fearism conception based on the groundwork of his research on a philosophy of fearlessness.

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