What is Ataraxia?

Meaning of Ataraxia

The concept of ataraxia means “stillness”, “mental serenity” or “imperturbability”. Although it was Democritus (c. 460-370 BC), one of the pre-Socratic philosophers, who was the first to use the term to designate “ the best mental state resulting from adequate knowledge that frees one from fear ”.

It was the Epicureans, the Stoics and the Skeptics who put it at the center of their philosophical doctrines and developed it.

According to Epicurus, happiness is obtained through ataraxia and the absence of certain feelings, such as sorrow, sadness, fear or even passion, and also through the need for moderation and self-discipline in order not to give in to the impulses of others. instincts. In this sense, he promotes happiness and permanent balance in the soul and body.


For the Stoics, ataraxia is very close to apathy, since both characterize the states of the soul that contribute to reaching the maximum exponent of happiness through the moderation of desires and the precise appreciation of things and situations of the day. .

Already for Pirro de Élis, one of the founders of skepticism , ataraxia passes through Epoché, that is, the culmination of the suspension of judgment and, only by practicing this, can ataraxia be achieved.

Despite the slight differences with which each of the three philosophical currents define ataraxia , their notion is based on the same assumptions, namely:

  • Division, especially elaborated by the Stoics, between what is in our power and what is external to us;
  • In the confidence that man as a rational being is capable of eliminating and abstracting from any type of disturbance and achieving maximum happiness;
  • In the idea that tranquility is morally better than experience.

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