Quietism (Concepts & Beliefs)

Quietism is a philosophy that explores the importance of inner tranquility and spiritual surrender. Rooted in Christian spirituality, it emphasizes the idea that perfection is achieved through passivity of the soul, allowing divine action to unfold.

Quietism can be traced back to the teachings of Miguel de Molinos, a Spanish priest who became a renowned spiritual director in Rome during the 17th century. He advocated for the interior way of contemplation and the path to Christian perfection through a state of passive purification and surrender to God’s will.

Key Takeaways:

  • Quietism emphasizes inner tranquility and spiritual surrender.
  • Perfection is achieved through passivity of the soul and allowing divine action to unfold.
  • Miguel de Molinos was a key figure associated with Quietism and promoted the path of contemplation.

The Teachings of Miguel de Molinos

In the realm of Christian spirituality, Miguel de Molinos was a notable figure who propagated a unique approach that sought to attain contemplation, Christian perfection, and passive purification. According to Molinos, with divine assistance, anyone could reach a state of contemplation and remain in it for extended periods.

In Molinos’ teachings, contemplation was described as a blurry and undefined perception of God that hindered human thoughts and actions. In this state, the soul embraced a “dark faith,” engaging in passive purification while excluding specific thoughts and interior actions.

Molinos believed that desiring to act was an offense against God, as He desired to work through individuals. Those who underwent a mystic death of the self and achieved contemplation experienced the exclusive reality of God living and reigning in their souls. Their wills were completely surrendered to God’s will, for they had been taken away entirely. The teachings of Molinos, however, faced condemnation from the Roman Catholic Church in 1687, leading to his lifelong imprisonment.

For a visual representation of Miguel de Molinos’ teachings, refer to the following table:

Key Teachings of Miguel de Molinos
Contemplation as a blurred and undefined view of God
Engaging in passive purification and excluding definite thought and interior action
Considering the desire to act as an offense against God
Mystic death of the self leading to contemplation
Complete surrender of personal will to God’s will

In-depth Analysis:

Going deeper into Miguel de Molinos’ teachings, contemplation played a central role in his concept of Christian perfection. It was believed that by attaining a state of contemplation, individuals could fully surrender to God’s will and experience divine presence within themselves.

This mystical state of contemplation required the passive purification of the soul, where any definite thoughts and interior actions were stripped away. Individuals had to surrender their desires and allow God to work through them. This state of complete surrender allowed the reality of God to reign within their souls, aligning their wills with God’s will alone.

Although Molinos’ teachings were met with opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, his emphasis on contemplation and surrender to God’s will left a lasting impact on Christian spirituality and the pursuit of inner peace. By relinquishing personal desires and actively seeking a state of contemplation, individuals could strive toward a deeper spiritual connection and a more profound understanding of Christian perfection.

Quietism in Christian and Non-Christian Movements

Quietistic elements can be found in various religious movements, both Christian and non-Christian. Alongside Miguel de Molinos, two prominent figures associated with Quietism are Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon and François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon.

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon was an influential mystic in France who propagated a form of mysticism that emphasized pure love. Her teachings focused on the interior life of the soul and the experience of union with God through contemplation and self-surrender.

She gained the support of François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon, the archbishop of Cambrai, who developed a doctrine of pure love that came to be known as semi-Quietism. Fénelon emphasized the importance of disinterested love and surrendering oneself completely to God’s will.

Both Guyon and Fénelon faced condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church for their teachings. The controversy surrounding their ideas led to a prolonged theological debate, with the Church ultimately rejecting certain tenets of Quietism.

Quietism, in its various forms, has also found parallels among Protestants in movements such as Pietism and Quakerism. These religious movements shared a focus on individual spirituality, inner stillness, and direct communion with God.

The image above symbolizes Christian spirituality and the pursuit of inner peace, which are central themes within Quietism.

Quietism in Contemporary Philosophy

In contemporary philosophy, quietism takes on a different meaning within the realm of analytic philosophy. Quietist philosophers argue that philosophy does not have positive theses to contribute but serves a therapeutic or remedial role. They believe that philosophy should focus on defusing confusions in language and conceptual frameworks rather than advancing knowledge or settling debates.

Quietism is often contrasted with philosophical realism and non-realism, with quietists asserting that the debate between the two is unresolvable. Philosophers such as Crispin Wright and Gideon Rosen have defended quietism in relation to the realism debate.

Contrasting Philosophical Approaches

Philosophical Approach Key Tenets
Quietism – Philosophy as a therapeutic discipline
– Focus on defusing confusions in language and conceptual frameworks
– Rejection of advancing knowledge or settling debates
Realism – Belief in the existence of an objective reality
– Focus on the correspondence between language and reality
– Search for truth and meaningful statements
Non-Realism Skepticism towards the existence of an objective reality
– Emphasis on language as a human construct
– Focus on the role of language in shaping our understanding

Quietism in Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism

The origins of philosophical quietism can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophical schools such as Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism. Pyrrhonist skeptics sought tranquility of mind, or ataraxia, through the suspension of judgment and the refusal to assent to any philosophical thesis. They believed that by abstaining from making assertions, one could achieve a state of mental quietude.

Epicureanism, on the other hand, focused on the pursuit of pleasure (aponia) and freedom from pain, aiming to attain ataraxia through detachment from worldly desires. Both Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism can be seen as precursors to the quietist mindset.

Key Principles of Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism

  • Pyrrhonism emphasizes the suspension of judgment, leading to mental tranquility.
  • Epicureanism emphasizes the pursuit of pleasure and detachment from worldly desires.
  • Both philosophies advocate for achieving ataraxia, a state of inner tranquility and freedom from disturbance.

The Influence of Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism

The philosophies of Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism have had a lasting impact on quietism. The emphasis on suspending judgment and detaching from worldly desires aligns with the quietist approach of surrendering to divine action and seeking inner tranquility.

Pyrrhonism Epicureanism
Focus on suspension of judgment Emphasis on pursuit of pleasure
Refusal to assent to philosophical theses Detachment from worldly desires
Seeking ataraxia through mental quietude Aiming for ataraxia through freedom from pain

Contemporary Quietist Philosophers

In the realm of contemporary philosophy, there are notable thinkers who align with quietist perspectives, although not explicitly advocating for quietism. One prominent philosopher in this regard is Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose works express sympathy towards the quietist viewpoint. Wittgenstein’s influence is particularly evident in the ordinary language philosophy movement, which highlights the therapeutic purport of philosophy.


The ordinary language philosophy movement emphasizes the importance of analyzing and clarifying language and concepts to alleviate confusion and promote understanding. Philosophers such as J.L. Austin, Norman Malcolm, and John McDowell have embraced quietist positions in their approaches to skepticism, language, and the mind. They prioritize the careful examination of language and its uses, seeking to uncover the therapeutic potential of philosophy rather than engaging in substantive theoretical debates.


Another philosopher with quietist leanings is Richard Rorty, albeit to a lesser extent. While Rorty explores diverse philosophical perspectives, he also emphasizes the significance of language and its role in shaping our understanding of the world. He, too, encourages an approach that focuses on analyzing language and clarifying concepts, moving away from grand philosophical theorizing.

Philosopher Name Main Ideas
Ludwig Wittgenstein Expressed sympathy towards quietism in his works
Emphasizes the therapeutic purport of philosophy
J.L. Austin Adopts a quietist approach to skepticism and language
Focuses on analyzing language and its uses
Norman Malcolm Embraces quietist positions in his approach to the mind
Prioritizes the analysis of language and concepts
John McDowell Advocates for a quietist stance on skepticism
Emphasizes language analysis and clarity
Richard Rorty Holds a quietist position with lesser emphasis
Focuses on analyzing language and clarifying concepts

Varieties of Quietism

Quietism, as a philosophical approach, manifests in various forms depending on the subject or issue it addresses. Within the realm of philosophical discourse, some proponents advocate quietist positions concerning realism and truth, positing that engaging in substantial metaphysical debates in these areas is ultimately impossible. They contend that such debates rely on unsupported or unsupportable theses, failing to contribute to the advancement of knowledge or the resolution of philosophical quandaries.

Moreover, quietism has garnered attention within the realms of philosophical hermeneutics and fictionalism, eliciting varying degrees of acceptance and criticism among different schools of thought. Let’s explore these areas further:

Quietism and Realism

Quietist positions regarding realism challenge the possibility of discerning objective reality through philosophical inquiry. Proponents argue that attempts to ascertain the nature of reality through metaphysical debates often lead to unresolvable impasses. They contend that engaging in these debates becomes unfruitful as the theses put forward lack sufficient empirical grounding and fail to produce substantive knowledge or clarity.

Quietism and Truth

Akin to quietist stances on realism, proponents of quietism about truth maintain that engaging in debates regarding the nature of truth is an exercise in futility. They argue that such debates often involve unverifiable or subjective claims, preventing concrete resolutions. Advocates of quietist positions on truth advocate for a shift in focus towards pragmatic considerations and the interpretation of truth in specific contexts, rather than eternal and absolute truths.

Quietism and Philosophical Hermeneutics

Quietism has been a topic of interest in the field of philosophical hermeneutics, which concerns the interpretation of texts and the understanding of meaning. Proponents of quietism within this context emphasize the limitations of philosophical endeavors to uncover ultimate or definitive interpretations of texts. They suggest that interpretations of texts should be approached with humility, acknowledging the influence of contextual factors and the inherent subjectivity of interpretation.

Quietism and Fictionalism

Fictionalism, a philosophical view that treats statements or concepts as useful fictions rather than representations of objective reality, has also intersected with quietism. Some scholars explore the potential alignment between quietist positions and fictionalism, examining the role of language and concepts in philosophical discourse. They argue that both quietism and fictionalism share a skepticism towards the ability of philosophy to access ultimate truth or ontological realities.

Through its various manifestations, quietism prompts critical reflection on the limits of philosophical inquiry in domains such as metaphysics, truth, hermeneutics, and ontology. By challenging the assumptions and aspirations of certain debates, quietism invites scholars to consider alternative perspectives and approaches that may offer greater insights and resolutions in philosophical discourse.


Quietism is a philosophy that places great value on inner tranquility and spiritual surrender, urging individuals to relinquish human effort and allow divine action to unfold. Throughout history, quietism has been a subject of extensive discussions and debates within both religious and philosophical realms. From the teachings of Miguel de Molinos in the 17th century to contemporary interpretations found in analytic philosophy, quietism has manifested in various forms with differing perspectives.

Whether it is embraced as a facet of Christian spirituality, viewed as a therapeutic approach to philosophy, or seen as a rejection of substantive debates, quietism offers profound insights into the significance of cultivating inner peace and the limits of human comprehension. The key concepts encompassed by quietism include the pursuit of inner tranquility, the surrender of personal will in favor of divine will, and the belief in the passive purification of the soul.

It is important to emphasize that quietism’s interpretation and application can vary significantly depending on the context and philosophical framework. For instance, within the realm of Christian spirituality, quietism embodies a contemplative path to spiritual perfection. In contrast, in contemporary analytic philosophy, quietism takes on a linguistic focus, aiming to clarify conceptual frameworks rather than establishing substantive theses.

In summary, quietism serves as a reminder of the importance of inner tranquility and spiritual surrender within various belief systems. While its specific understanding and application may differ, the philosophy offers valuable insights into the human quest for inner peace and the complexities of translating profound experiences into tangible understanding.


What is Quietism?

Quietism is a doctrine of Christian spirituality that emphasizes inner tranquility and spiritual surrender, allowing divine action to unfold.

Who is Miguel de Molinos?

Miguel de Molinos was a Spanish priest who became a spiritual director in Rome during the 17th century. He was associated with the teachings of Quietism and emphasized contemplation as the path to Christian perfection.

What were Miguel de Molinos’ teachings?

Molinos believed that contemplation involved a passive purification of the soul and a surrender to God’s will. He taught that the desire to act was an offense against God, as only His will should prevail.

What other figures are associated with Quietism?

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon and François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon are notable figures associated with Quietism. Both faced condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church for their teachings.

How is Quietism understood in contemporary philosophy?

In contemporary philosophy, Quietism refers to a therapeutic approach that focuses on analyzing and clarifying language and concepts, rather than advancing knowledge or settling debates.

What are Pyrrhonism and Epicurianism?

Pyrrhonism is a philosophical school that advocates for the suspension of judgment and abstinence from making assertions to achieve tranquility of mind. Epicureanism focuses on pursuing pleasure and freedom from pain to attain mental peace.

Who are some notable contemporary Quietist philosophers?

Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.L. Austin, Norman Malcolm, John McDowell, and Richard Rorty are philosophers who have adopted quietist positions in relation to skepticism, language, and the mind.

What are the different forms of Quietism?

Quietism can be viewed as a rejection of substantial metaphysical debates, including those about realism and truth. It has also been discussed within the context of philosophical hermeneutics and fictionalism.

What is the essence of Quietism?

Quietism emphasizes inner tranquility, spiritual surrender, and the limitation of human understanding in the pursuit of peace and spiritual growth.

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