If a phobia is an irrational fear, is there a word for a fear that is rational?

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    A rational fear is an oxymoron. – Othya Jun 16 '16 at 16:43
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    ^how do you figure that? Are you saying that if a lion was trapped in the room with you your fear would be irrational? – user180089 Jun 16 '16 at 16:50
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    Fear is rational. Phobia is irrational. – NVZ Jun 16 '16 at 17:02
  • Fear is not necessarily rational."Fear is the unpleasant feeling you have when you think that you are in danger." The thought might or might not be rational, might be partially rational (meaning the danger exist but the probability is badly evaluated). Some people fear God, how's is that rational? some people fear the judgment of their parents even though they're grown up. Some people fear more spiders than crossing a road, it's not rational either (except in Australia). Rationality is not what makes differ phobia from fear. It's the intensity (and yes a phobia is always non rational). – P. O. Jun 16 '16 at 18:49
  • @P.Obertelli I forgot to mention, phobias are a subset of fears. So obviously not all fears are rational. But the rational ones are just that--rational fears or simply fears. There seems to be no single word other than this. – NVZ Jun 16 '16 at 23:48

I doubt there is a single word which labels rational fear, but I would say caution comes close:

prudent forethought to minimize risk

Prudence implies rationality (one of its synonyms, another being wise)

The reason I doubt a specific word for rational fear is that fear (n.) is normal and rational in a great many situations.


To my mind, having a "rational fear" means being...

circumspect - heedful of potential [undesirable] consequences
cf prudent - careful and sensible; marked by sound judgment

...so as a noun, I'd go for circumspection.


I discovered this thread because I was looking for a single word or phrase that meant the opposite of a phobia - as in: if a phobia is always considered to be an “irrational fear”. What I believe I am discovering is that there is no such word or suffix. Apparetnlynis hasn’t been coined but I believe such a word is needed.

What seems to get lost in the discussion is that when people try to define or assign the terms such as rational or irrational, they are making a value judgement or attempting to define their own view of rationality. Ex: running into a burning building to save someone else may seem rational to some - hoping to save the life of a loved one or simply another human being, or it would seem irrational because entering a burning building has real fears of personal harm and pain. Then we talk about action done in the face of fear is courage. And it could be courage. But, all of these additional descriptors are imparting a value - trying to define rationality or irrationality or desirability and admirability vs undesirability or shamefulness.

My point is this - in our PC world today where most of the time opinions are held up as fact or truth and opinions seem to matter more than flat facts, and when it is hard to ascribe form definitions of truth and rationality, I find that it is getting harder and harder to speak plain facts and that most of what is discussed boils down to personal opinions and agendas.

As such, the term phobia is now used to defame and attack anyone or any idea that the speaker wishes to downgrade because it is in opposition to their own ideas and thinking. In other words - today people can add the -phobia suffix to anything they want and simultaneously defend your ideas while attacking, offending and even demonizing anyone who holds to a different or opposite view. And what is actually happening there - often they are simply expressing their opinion and trying to cloak it or take the high ground by at the same time labeling and being intolerant of someone else’s viewpoint by using the -phobic card on them and claiming that they or their views are somehow irrational or undesirable.

Therefore , since we live in a world of competing narratives and battles between feeling and victimns and words like “it’s so sad that ...” when people are reporting “information” Let’s just recognize that almost all speech is propaganda of some sort and since there is a word that adds negative connotations like irrational and insane and unwanted or inappropriate as labeling someone -phobic. Then can’t we have a word where the speaker is also labeling their views and feelings as positive - as in a good and rational and well justified fear or apprehension of something?

Surely there are some rational fears and justifiable apprehensions that someone can be a good and decent person for holding to and sharing.

Yes, let’s agree this is feeling-driven speech. But let’s at least be honest and recognize that today the word -phobic or -phobia is also just that - feeling drive speed designed to debegrate and attack someone for holding to an opinion or value that the person weilding the term phobia believes to be true and right or desperately wants it to be believed as true and right. These are all value-based statements based upon the values help by the speaker. And if you want to really go theological and into world views - you could observe that any and all value-comparative words and speech and ideas assume that there is ultimately some fixed standard of right and wrong.
Today we live in a world that questions the very existence of a god and therefore of any level of fixed form of right and wrong. So, it is ironic that anyone who throws around value projecting statements like phobic or so sad and who also does t believe in any form of god and ultimate form of right and wrong, or good vs evil should even be listened to at all. Because, by their own appeal to wait they say is right and wrong they are making a subtle appeal to a god or ultimate set of failures, Their own speech coming from their own mouthed is, almost by definition - paradoxical and frankly it is an irrational thing to listen to such a person. CS Lewis explores this in his book Mere Christianity when he discusses the idea of a Tao - a universally known set of right and wrong that seems to exist in every culture and in every era of civilization. Therefore, somehow all of us, wven a den of thieves, somehow is born with some Sense of right and wrong and there usually is even some code or honor or morality even among thieves. So, that is why even people who claim not to believe in any god still seem to speaknas ifnthey did believe in a god or some form of moral correctness that we all, somehow expect each other to know about and agree upon.

Deep - isn’t it! So, does anyone recognize this contradiction in society and especially In-N-Out day and age. Does anyone notice how language has devolved into more and more opinion-slinging in an era when more and more people are abandoning a faith in a god.

So, again - who can coin a word and phrase or suffix that can serve like -phobic or phobia serves today. Meaning a suffix that unapologetically does come packed with a values judgement that basically says in a positive and affirming way: “yes - this is a fear that is well founded upon sound evidence - it is both rational and good, welcomes and smart to hold his fear”

For instance if someone held a fear of Natzi Sa forces during WWII, couldn’t we find a bette term than to label them Nazi-phobic? I don’t think I have ever heard that term. But there ought to be a term for a rational and highly justifiable and praise worthy fear or dread of something or someone. Surely there is a need and use for such a term.

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    This could do with some editing to keep it focused on answering the question that was asked. – KillingTime Jul 3 '19 at 14:27
  • You are right - the first post was way to long with way too much context and examples – Tom Jones Jul 4 '19 at 1:21

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