Philosophy:Contemporary Stoicism

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Short description: Intellectual and popular movement

Contemporary Stoicism refers to currents in culture from the 20th century and later reviving elements of Stoicism. It is different from neostoicism, an earlier revival in the 17th century. The term "contemporary Stoicism" covers both the revival of interest in Stoic philosophy and the philosophical efforts to adjust ancient Stoicism to the language and conceptual frameworks of the present.



The revival of Stoicism in the 20th century can be traced to the publication of Problems In Stoicism[1][2] by A. A. Long in 1971, and also as part of the late 20th century surge of interest in virtue ethics.

Work by philosophers like Philippa Foot, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Martha Nussbaum, among others, have brought back virtue ethics as a viable alternative to the dominant Kantiandeontological and utilitarianconsequentialist approaches."[3] Contemporary Stoicism draws from the late 20th and early 21st century spike in publications of scholarly works on ancient Stoicism. Beyond that, the current Stoicist movement traces its roots to the work of Dr. Albert Ellis, who developed rational emotive behavior therapy,[4] as well as Aaron T. Beck, who is regarded by many as the father to early versions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Psychology and psychotherapy

Stoic philosophy was the original philosophical inspiration for modern cognitive psychotherapy, particularly as mediated by Dr. Albert Ellis' Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the major precursor of CBT. The original cognitive therapy treatment manual for depression by Aaron T. Beck et al. states, "The philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers".[5] A well-known quotation from Enchiridion of Epictetus was taught to most clients during the initial session of traditional REBT by Ellis and his followers: "It's not the events that upset us, but our judgments about the events." This subsequently became a common element in the socialization phase of many other approaches to CBT. The question of Stoicism's influence on modern psychotherapy, particularly REBT and CBT, was described in detail in The Philosophy of Cognitive–Behavioural Therapy by Donald Robertson.[6] Moreover, several early 20th century psychotherapists were influenced by Stoicism, most notably the "rational persuasion" school founded by the Swiss neurologist and psychotherapist Paul DuBois, who drew heavily on Stoicism in his clinical work and encouraged his clients to study passages from Seneca the Younger as homework assignments.

As a popular movement

The modern Stoicism movement relies heavily on global social media and online communities. One of the key sites is the Modern Stoicism website, which harbors the Stoicism Today blog and hosts the Annual Stoic Week (online) and Stoicon (offline) events.[7] Another important place is the New Stoa, which was founded in May 1996 and is arguably the first lasting Stoic community on the internet. Three key podcasts talking about Stoicism applied to modern thought are the Stoic Solutions Podcast hosted by Justin Vacula,[8] The Practical Stoic Podcast hosted by Simon Drew[9] and Steve Karafit's The Sunday Stoic.[10]

Several personal blogs explore Stoicism, some of them run by notable Stoic scholars (e.g., Massimo Pigliucci, William B Irvine, John Sellars) and some therapists who explore Stoic applications (e.g., Donald Robertson). Articles on Stoicism have appeared on popular websites.[11][12] In E.O. Scott's words, "[the] potent combination of social media and a few highly publicized books and articles [...] has recently launched Stoicism on an exponential growth curve."[13] There is a variety of Stoic meetups and groups based in places such as Australia, Denver, Dublin, Edinburgh, Fremont, Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Milwaukee, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Toronto and Warsaw, amongst others, as well as several "Stoic Camps" for study and practice.[14][15] According to E.O. Scott, "arguably the most important and influential gathering place for Modern Stoics [online]"[13] is the "stoicism group" on Facebook of ≈40 000 people (as of January 2019). The analogous Reddit group has amassed ≈431 000 users (as of December 26, 2021). Beyond the Anglophone, there is the "Sztuka życia według stoików" site run by Piotr Stankiewicz, "Stoicyzm Uliczny" run by Marcin Fabjański and Centrum Praktyki Stoickiej run by Tomasz Mazur and others.

Applications of modern Stoicism are reported across industries. According to Forbes, modern Stoic thought "hold[s] fascinating promise for business and government leaders tackling global problems in a turbulent, post-recession slump."[16] However, two Stoic academics, Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos, have warned against using "life-hack Stoicism" or "Silicon Valley Stoicism" as the primary means of understanding Stoic philosophy.[17] Subsequently, they discussed Stoicism's role in advocating for change in society, including when it comes to standing against gender-based discrimination in the workplace[18] and highlighted the fact that women had a vital role in the development of ancient Stoicism[19]

Similarities of modern Stoicism and Third Wave CBT have been suggested as well, and its potency in treating depression has been studied.[20] There has also been interest in applying the tenets of ancient Stoicism to the human origin story,[21] environmental education,[22] vegetarianism[23] and the modern challenges of sustainable development, material consumption and consumerism.[24][25][26]

See also





  1. Long, A A (1971) (in English). Problems in Stoicism. London: Athlone Press. ISBN 0485111187. 
  2. Problems in Stoicism. 1971. 
  3. Pigliucci, Massimo (December 14, 2016). "Stoicism". 
  4. "REBT Network: Albert Ellis | Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy". 
  5. Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery (1979) Cognitive Therapy of Depression, p. 8.
  6. Robertson, D (2010). The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: Stoicism as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy. London: Karnac. ISBN 978-1855757561. 
  7. Willis, Timothy (December 1, 2014). "Meet the Real Stoics Taking Psychology Back to the 3rd Century BC". 
  8. "Practical Wisdom for Everyday Life" (in en-US). 
  9. Development, PodBean. "The Practical Stoic Podcast with Simon Drew" (in en). 
  10. "Home | Sunday Stoic" (in en). 
  11. "7 insights from the ancient philosophy of Marcus Aurelius that will change the way you think about life, death, and time" (in en). Business Insider. 
  12. Shammas, Michael (January 23, 2014). "Want Happiness? Become a Practicing Stoic". 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Scott, E.O. (November 30, 2016). "A Quick Map of the Online Stoic Community". 
  14. Colter, Rob (August 20, 2020). "Stoics on the Frontier". 
  15. Sadler, Gregory (March 7, 2018). "Stoic Camp New York 2018". 
  16. Sheffield, Carrie. "Want an Unconquerable Mind? Try Stoic Philosophy". 
  17. Whiting, Kai; Konstantakos, Leonidas (April 17, 2018). "Life-Hack Stoicism – Is It Worth It?" (in en-US). The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast. 
  18. Whiting, Kai; Konstankos, Leonidas (May 5, 2018). "Taking Stoicism Beyond the Self: The Power To Change Society". 
  19. Whiting, Kai; Konstantakos, Leonidas (May 31, 2021). "Stoicism Isn't and Never Was (Merely) a Rich White Man's Philosophy" (in en-US). 
  20. Evans, Jules (June 29, 2013). "Anxious? Depressed? Try Greek philosophy". 
  21. Whiting, Kai; Konstantakos, Leonidas; Sadler, Greg; Gill, Christopher (April 21, 2018). "Were Neanderthals Rational? A Stoic Approach" (in en). Humanities 7 (2): 39. doi:10.3390/h7020039. 
  22. Carmona, Luis Gabriel; Simpson, Edward; Misiaszek, Greg; Konstantakos, Leonidas; Whiting, Kai (December 2018). "Education for the Sustainable Global Citizen: What Can We Learn from Stoic Philosophy and Freirean Environmental Pedagogies?" (in en). Education Sciences 8 (4): 204. doi:10.3390/educsci8040204. 
  23. Whiting, Kai (February 11, 2019). "The Sustainable Stoic". 
  24. Whiting, Kai; Konstantakos, Leonidas; Carrasco, Angeles; Carmona, Luis Gabriel (February 10, 2018). "Sustainable Development, Wellbeing and Material Consumption: A Stoic Perspective" (in en). Sustainability 10 (2): 474. doi:10.3390/su10020474. 
  25. Modern Stoicism, Stoicon 2018: Kai Whiting on Stoicism and Sustainability,, retrieved January 29, 2019 
  26. Gregory B. Sadler, A Conversation with Kai Whiting On Stoicism and Sustainability | Ideas That Matter Interview Series,, retrieved January 29, 2019 

External links

"Don't be stoic: Roman Stoicism's origins show its perniciousness | Psyche Ideas" (in en).