Hans Jonas's Noble ‘Heuristics of Fear': Neither the Good Lie Nor the Terrible Truth


  • Nathan Dinneen Rochester Institute of Technology


Hans Jonas, heuristics of fear, ecology, philosophical biology, public communication


In this essay, Jonas's political teaching is discussed through examining his judicious use of the natural sciences, especially evolutionary theory and scientific ecology, in developing a new ontology and a new ethic. His ontological and ethical arguments are considered in terms of their public communication via his "heuristics of fear,” with particular attention to his claim that an ontological axiom that he makes use of is an argumentum ad hominem. I also make the case that the accusations against him as being an ecoauthoritarian fail to consider that his suggestions regarding the necessity of tyranny and the use of the noble lie to halt an ecological crisis are themselves expressions of the heuristics of fear, which is intended to foster willful change now before change of a forced sort becomes the only option. With this interpretation in mind, one sees the ennobling character of his heuristics of fear.


Author Biography

Nathan Dinneen, Rochester Institute of Technology

Assistant Professor 

Department of Political Science




How to Cite

Dinneen, N. (2014). Hans Jonas’s Noble ‘Heuristics of Fear’: Neither the Good Lie Nor the Terrible Truth. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 10(2), 1–21. Retrieved from http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/382