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For other uses, see Ataraxia (disambiguation).

Ataraxia (ἀταραξία, "tranquillity") is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a lucid state of robust tranquillity, characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry.[1]


For Epicureanism, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquillity that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.[citation needed]


For Pyrrhonism, given that neither the sense impressions, intellect, nor both combined are a sufficient means of knowing and conveying truth, one suspends judgement on dogmatic beliefs or anything non-evident. It is from this suspension of belief that ataraxia arises as one realizes that one thing is 'no more' than that. No more up than down, no more wet than dry, no more hot than cold, no more night than day, "the number of stars one can see in the night sky is no more even than odd", no more left than right, no more black than white as when Anaxagoras countered the notion that snow is white with the argument "Snow is frozen water, and water is black; therefore snow is also black", etc. Most important of all, in enunciation of 'no more' or 'I determine nothing', in uttering these expressions, one is merely stating how things appear to them, at the time and in an undogmatic way, without making any assertion of truth regarding external reality.[2]


Stoicism often made use of the term, as they too sought mental tranquillity and saw ataraxia as highly valuable. In Stoicism, however, ataraxia is not an end to be pursued for its own sake, but is rather a natural consequence that occurs in a person who pursues virtue. A closely related state, attained by the ideal Stoic sage, was the absence of unhealthy passions, or apatheia.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "". Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ Sextus Empiricus, "Outlines of Pyrrhonism", Trans. R. G. Bury, Loeb Classical Library, Book I, Ch. XIX, "Nowise more", p. 109
  3. ^ Steven K. Strange, (2004), The Stoics on the Voluntariness of Passion in Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations, page 37. Cambridge University Press.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of ataraxia at Wiktionary