Kevin Leavitt wrote:
Fear is an interesting concept. One where semantics come deeply into play. I think there are things that we tend to label as "fear" that are rational in nature. It is good to have a healthy respect for fire for instance. There is a rational base for that. Some might say that rational respect is fear. I don't think so, I kinda label it common sense (based on rationality).
What I call fear is assumptions and actions taken based on ignorance of the unknown.
I don't think I can go along with your definitions here. It seems to me that you are packing it with extra intellectual baggage in reaction to the idea that fear is bad or shameful. I would get rid of all that complication and identify fear as a sort of basic emotion, or maybe even something 'lizard-brained' and more simple and basic than an emotion. You can feel it in your body.
If your house is on fire, you'll probably feel it. It also happens to be rational in that case, as you and/or your loved ones could die, and all the stuff you worked hard to accumulate is in danger of being destroyed. In this case, it is probably helping you by providing you with adrenaline and motivation to take drastic action. This is presumably it's origin: it's like a save-your-ass overdrive mechanism... going back to questionable evolutionary speculation.
If you experience a lot of house fires, it's likely you won't feel it very much anymore. You have become used to the situation, and maybe not feeling fear is more useful, in that you are say, a firefighter and need more informed and calculated responses to what happens. I don't think either case is necessarily more rational.
With issues like crime and terrorism fear, I think the problem is both unconscious and calculated efforts by people involved with various mass media to stimulate the feeling in people for their own benefit. Entertainment often pushes the fear button because it is a strong type of stimulation - it gets people to pay attention to reading materials, shows and movies, which can motivate them to pay for the entertainment product itself or sit still long enough that their attention can be sold to advertisers through commercial placements. Politically, fear can be used to motivate people to vote a certain way that is probably contrary to their rational interests, or to lure their attention away from other things the politicians and their cronies are doing that would be more difficult to get away with under scrutiny.
I really think this is why society seems so irrationally fear-ridden nowadays, moreso than in prior eras where people were faced far more real danger: mass media. If one could come up with a way to quantify and measure how much fear people felt and the extent to which it motivated them, I think studies would show the magnitudes directly proportional to how much time they spend watching TV and consuming other mainstream mass-media products.