36

Consider the following two people:

  • Alice obsessively watches the news and feels horrified by the constant bad news she sees. She takes up smoking to deal with the stress, and experiences panic attacks.

  • Bob also watches the news, but he realises he can't do much to change anything on a national scale so he decides not to care and goes for a walk with his dog.

I am looking for a noun to describe Bob's attitude. Apathy could work but it has negative moral connotations. Is there a positive equivalent?

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  • 4
    Surely there's a difference between 'realising one can't do much' and 'deciding not to care'? I wouldn't necessarily consider the latter to have positive moral connotations. – Jeremy Nov 3 '17 at 18:16
  • 5
    Please look up apathy in a thesaurus. An easy one to start with is Thesaurus.com. If none of the options there (dispassion, stoicism, insouciance, etc.) works for you or leads you to a word that works for you, tell us what options you've considered and why they don't work. Also include an example sentence showing how you want to use the word. Good luck! – 1006a Nov 4 '17 at 3:51
  • 2
    Maybe detachment would do? – Jesvin Jose Nov 4 '17 at 8:40
  • 1
    Can you explain what positive moral connotations you are seeing here? I see the possible positive health connotations, but in what way is Bob's non-action morally superior in your scenario? – mattdm Nov 6 '17 at 17:45
  • "Stoicism" (adjective: "stoic") is an excellent proposition! – mirkastath Nov 7 '17 at 5:54

13 Answers 13

68

Sounds to me like Bob has achieved an admirable equanimity.

Equanimity describes "The quality of being calm and even-tempered; [achieving] composure."

Another word which just came to mind is unruffled.

Whereas Jane comes unglued while watching the terrible events unfolding on the six o'clock news, Bob has achieved a certain equanimity and remains unruffled by what the talking heads are saying.

  • This one's good as well, +1. I've also added it to my little list of alternatives for completion's sake, hope you don't mind. – Cerberus Nov 3 '17 at 15:25
  • Equinamity does refer more to composure than care, though, so it diverges away from apathy significantly. – Danikov Nov 3 '17 at 16:55
  • @Danikov: Yes, I agree. Truth be told, however, I prefer unruffled. (Oh, and watch your spelling: not equinamity but equanimity!). – rhetorician Nov 5 '17 at 1:43
  • Equanimity means that the soul (anima) stays calm and does not incline for any side. Even tempered is the best translation. But is not the same as apathy, cause "A" as prefix means "no/without" and "PATHOS" means "want of sensation" (more like a concept, like "what it wants to feel in us"). So Apathy = impasibility / not wanting to feel. The coloquial version is related to lazyness or to be bored, but was the Psychology (the philosophy before with the Stoics, where the psychology got it from) that re-used the word, meaning a state of indiference against the environment or other people. – Billeeb Nov 7 '17 at 15:07
35

I suggest serenity as in

Bob is serene about it all.

calm, peaceful, and untroubled; tranquil.

Find the word and take the antonym that fits

30

Apathy (apatheia) was originally a positive word in Stoic philosophy: having no (strong) feelings is considered a virtue by Stoicism.

Epicurism is somewhat milder; its corresponding virtue is ataraxy (ataraxeia), "imperturbability": experiencing feelings is not harmful, as long as they do not strike one off balance. So you could use ataraxy or imperturbability.

Other alternatives: impassivity, aequanimity, emotional tranquillity, serenity, calm(ness), peace of mind.

  • 1
    Similarly to apathy, being 'disinterested' has positive connotations in philosophical/religious contexts. There's also 'non-attachment'. – ArchContrarian Nov 3 '17 at 15:50
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    "Stoicism" itself fits the question's hypothetical fairly well. – Walt Nov 3 '17 at 18:14
  • @ArchContrarian: I considered disinterestedness, but it was so ugly...and distinterest and indifference somehow seem slightly different from what the original poster was looking for. – Cerberus Nov 3 '17 at 22:52
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    @Cerberus... you're right about disinterestedness,yuck. Thanks for ataraxy, though - new to me and euphonious. When you learn a new word, it crops up everywhere: I noticed a bottle of Chardonnay called Ataraxia while shopping tonight, sipping on it now. Cheers! – ArchContrarian Nov 4 '17 at 0:20
  • @ArchContrarian: That's great! Very Baader–Meinhof of you. I'm sure the word is rare as a title of anything. – Cerberus Nov 4 '17 at 0:43
10

Indifference is less negative than apathy, more of a neutral connotation, so perhaps not as positive as you'd prefer.

You could qualify it as "blissful indifference" to add a more positive take on it.

Bob also watches the news but is indifferent due to his inability to change things on a national scale and instead goes for a walk with his dog.

  • The positive connotations of indifference are oft overlooked: "There are three conditions which often look alike yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow: attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment from self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference which resembles the others as death resembles life, being between two lives - unflowering, between the live and the dead nettle." (TS Eliot, Four Quartets) – DukeZhou Nov 3 '17 at 17:56
  • The indifference of good men is the worst thing in the world. – Mazura Nov 3 '17 at 22:34
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    blasé and stoic are also along these lines. – Graham Nov 6 '17 at 12:55
10

I think Bob is more carefree than Alice.

Free from care: such as [...] having no worries or troubles

Also

Free from anxiety or responsibility

Which seems to me like the description of the attitude that you're looking for. The noun form is carefreeness though I admit that I've not heard it used often.

7

I would suggest that Bob could be displaying resignation as his decision not to care comes from an inability to do anything about it all rather than a carefree or calm attitude. To me, apathy suggests not caring about anything whereas resignation indicates knowing your limits.

6

I think the term you are looking for is detachment. Bob watches the news but is detached from it.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_detachment this can be a positive thing or an negative thing depending on context. I have often seen it used to mean being unperturbed by verbal abuse and similar.

Note that doctors and other professionals are expected to have professional detachment and not get involved emotionally with their patients.

4

Sanguinity, the noun version of sanguine:

Optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.

"He is sanguine about prospects for the global economy"

  • 1
    The question doesn't imply any kind of optimism on Bob's part. He might expect things to get better without any effort on his part, or he may simply have decided to put his efforts to something he has control over (taking a walk with his dog) even while he expects the news reports to get worse. – David K Nov 3 '17 at 21:25
4

nonchalant

adjective (of a person or manner) feeling or appearing casually calm and relaxed; not displaying anxiety, interest, or enthusiasm.

"she gave a nonchalant shrug"

If you need a noun, it would be nonchalance (the state of being nonchalant). However it's debatable whether it has positive connotations, it's more neutral.

Origin:

Since "nonchalant" comes ultimately from Latin words meaning "not" and "be warm," it's no surprise that the word is all about keeping one's cool. The French word nonchalant, which we borrowed around 1734, has essentially the same meaning as our English word and was derived in Old French from a verb, "nonchaloir," which meant "to disregard." "Nonchaloir" in turn combines the negative "non-" with "chaloir," which means "to concern" and comes from the Latin calēre ("to be warm").

  • Non-chalant=Sin-calor / desacaloradamente. Avoiding the heating up in a situation. Also, it means casually, with no interest, not putting "heart" into something. I must say, you are wrong about "non-chalant shrug" as noun. It's an adverbial phrase: "shrug" is the noun and "non chalant" is an adjective. – Billeeb Nov 7 '17 at 14:47
2

Several good answers already, but another positive noun for this case might be Composure which means the state of remaining calm and serene in the face of negative circumstances.

It's generally seen as positive, not neutral or negative. "Sally retained her composure throughout the emergency."

There are many other great words that could fit here: Poise, sangfroid, aplomb all come to mind.

2

Since Bob sounds like a practical person, I'll suggest pragmatism .

0

Another word for Bob is phlegmatic.

  1. Not easily excited to action or passion; calm; sluggish.
-3

Contentedly offers a solution that is morally neutral, as it describes that the person is neither disconnected from the subject or adversely affected by it, but is decidedly satisfied with his objectivity.

  • If Bob "decides not to care" then Bob is content. +1 – Mazura Nov 3 '17 at 22:37
  • Google: "contentedly : adjective. 1. accepting one's situation or life with equanimity and satisfaction." - People liked equanimity, what's with the DVs on this answer, y'all? – Mazura Nov 3 '17 at 22:40
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    @Mazura, it isn't the "equanimity", it's the "satisfaction". Using "contentedly" would imply that Bob is pleased that bad things are happening to other people. Not, I think, what the OP intended. – Harry Johnston Nov 4 '17 at 3:36

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