The Failures of Modern Stoicism and “Self-Help”

The Ancient Stoics

Stoicism as a written philosophy has been documented from the 3rd Century BC by Zeno of Citium, but quickly evolved past that. Anyone from a peasant to a Roman emperor could follow the teachings, where they could love fate, contemplate on death, and attempt to be happy throughout the good and the bad. Memento Mori, or the inevitability of death is key to Stoicism because it reminds us that we have a short time on this world and we must curb our pleasure to find the joy with the clock ticking down on us. Being happy throughout life means avoiding the “highs” and pushing past pleasures to find joy. Loving fate comes in the idea that things will happen to you, and you can do nothing but love it.

Failures of Determinism

This idea of loving fate often leads to a philosophy called Determinism, or the idea that the Universe has a set plan through past, present, and future, and you can do nothing about it. This is a dangerous philosophy, where you inevitably end up chasing the pleasure that stoicism warns us about heavily. If you can feel like you can do nothing about life, you will do nothing about life. You will do things that make you feel good right now, rather than try to find that joy you may covet.

The pathway

Stoicism often comes into the ideas of one trying to improve themselves. One quick search on the internet for getting better will show countless videos and articles of why stoicism is the way of the future. It is attractive because it is hard, and we can create something of ourselves once we know that a task that we have to do is hard. However, stoicism is not the answer to the questions that it brings up. When freeing your mind of baseless thoughts, you inevitably have a hole in both time and thought. Why is the universe controlled by fate? What can I do following this? Is there anything worth pursuing? Stoicism is not the end goal, rather it is just another step on the path to whatever you wish to pursue.

Modern Stoicism and the rise of the selfish

Modern Stoicism is a different animal than the ancient philosophy. While the ancients believed in focusing on good work and moving past material possessions, Modern Stoicism has adapted to the industrial lifestyles we all live. There is always that sense of someone trying to sell you something, whether it be a sponsorship, an advertisement, or a self-promotion. Their message is heavily diluted due to the hypocrisy that is evident in their media. The content these creators push may be much more dangerous, however. They preach distance between relationships because they can and they will fail at one point, and therefore you must stay alone. There are advantages to being a lone wolf, but completely cutting off the connection to main society has to come from a more reliable source than a YouTube video. Breeding selfishness is never a good thing, and sadly the effects of Modern Stoicism has led to such a thing.


Stoicism has to be taken with a grain of salt. It is not the solution to all your problems, but it is a good step to take.

I’m Aniket, and I’m interested in how we can make humans fundamentally better through better disease prevention and innovation.

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