Although they have a religious origin, the terms quietist and quietism have generally been used in the anglophone world in the context created by the French Revolution, which made them expressions of political abuse. Examination of classic instances of their use shows that in fact they were terms of psychological abuse, signs that men and women of political commitment could not understand, let alone accept, others who were not committed to one side or other in the revolutionary struggle. This paper takes issue with the egregious simplicity of that that attitude, while exploring aspects of the Idealist tradition in German philosophy which, also emerging from the challenge of the French Revolution, found positive terms and complex human explanations for behaviour that held back from definite political commitment. It concludes by suggesting the terms quietist and quietism have become redundant in a world that has moved on from a crude clash of revolution versus reaction.

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