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Adiaphora ( Sg. Adiaphoron ), also: Adiáphora or Adiaphorisms (Sg. Adiaphorismus ), (from Greek ἀδιάφορα "not differentiated", "middle things ") are things that are ethical according to the understanding of Stoic philosophy and also in Christian theology Are neutral in terms of respect, that is, which cannot be classified as good or bad.

More precisely, there are two questions to be separated from each other:

  • What is actually good for people - and what is ultimately indifferent for it?
  • Are there concrete actions that are neither good nor bad, that is, morally neutral?

The Adiaphora in Stoic Ethics

The Stoics who coined the term defined only two things as morally determinable:

  • The virtue as the only good and
  • the vice as the only evil.

Everything else is an adiaphoron. So things like life, beauty, wealth or health are morally neutral, so to speak “indifferent”. So only what is good is what serves virtue. Everything else is indifferent, especially all conventional goods / evils.

Among the inherently indifferent goods there are those for which man has a natural inclination. Virtue consists in making judicious choices and dealing with these natural things. However, whether one actually acquires, owns or loses this is ultimately irrelevant for human virtue and happiness.

Ethically important in the stoic doctrine of Adiaphora is the elaboration of the difference between the morally good and the extra-moral good. This shifts the focus to the question of what actually constitutes human morality.

The stoic doctrine of Adiaphora was partially developed within the school ( Ariston von Chios and others) in the sense that everything that is not identical with the inner attitude is absolutely indifferent. This propagated a Cynical libertinism.

Philosophical positions

  • The core of human morality:

According to Plutarch , the wise is only hypothetically concerned: he acts as if life, wealth, honor, etc., were real goods.

Kant emphasizes that human will alone can be good.

  • The possibility of concrete neutral actions:

Fichte and Kant - and before that Epicurus (341–270 BC) - were of the opinion that there is no concrete adiáphora .

Reception in Christianity

  • The "hypothetical world relationship of adiophoria":

The “hypothetical world relationship of adiophoria” represented by Plutarch is also seen as specifically Christian: no exaggerated concern for the goods of life and awareness of their undeserved and temporary gift character.

  • The possibility of indifferent actions:

In patristicism , Clement of Alexandria and Origen took up the doctrine of the Adiaphora - with Origen, however, with the new point of view that indifferent things could become good through the relationship to love God or neighbor. For Augustine, on the other hand, there were no actions “that could remain neutral between virtue and sin”.


In the 16th century there was an adiaphorist dispute between Orthodox Lutherans and followers of Melanchthon, who regarded certain religious practices (as distinct from actual matters of faith) as adiaphora. The Oxford English Dictionary knows this term as an indifference to religious matters.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Adiaphora  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Maximilian Forschner: Adiaphora. In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church (LThK), Vol. 1: A – Barcelona. 3. Edition. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. / Basel / Rom 1993, ISBN 3-451-22001-6 , Sp. 157–158.
  • Reimund B. Sdzuj: Adiaphorie and Art: Studies on the Genealogy of Aesthetic Thought. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 978-3-484-36607-7

Individual evidence

  1. E. König, KH Hülser: Adiaphora. In: Jürgen Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. Volume 1. 2nd edition. Metzler, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-476-01372-3 .
  2. a b c d e f Maximilian Forschner: Adiaphora. In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church (LThK), Vol. 1: A – Barcelona. 3. Edition. Herder, Freiburg i. Br. / Basel / Rom 1993, ISBN 3-451-22001-6 , Sp. 157.
  3. George Teichtweier: adiaphora. In: Josef Höfer, Karl Rahner (Hrsg.): Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (LThK), Volume 1. 2nd edition 1957, special edition. Herder, Freiburg 1986, Sp. 145, 146.