Dr. Jordan Peterson says that the surge in neostoicism is attributable to a cultural demand for values that have been lost as society changes and overcorrects problems.
- During a recent question-and-answer session, Peterson was asked about Stoicism, his opinion on the philosophy, and whether it is a valuable foundation for building personal growth.
- Peterson admitted that he is not terribly familiar with Stoic philosophy or books but says he admires its ethic of endurance, willingness to bear responsibility, and value sacrifice.
- He attributed the growth and popularity of neostoic ideas to a society overcorrecting unstated problems that discover solutions in forgotten philosophies.
Why It’s Important
The rise of Jordan Peterson’s popularity in 2017 coincided with a renewed fascination toward virtue ethics and traditional philosophy, with the popular psychologist jumpstarting a brief cultural fascination with the works of writers like Carl Yung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. However, Peterson’s secular ethical system—popularized in books like 12 Rules For Life—bears far more direct similarity to the works of philosophers like Aristotle, whose Nicomachean Ethics has proven one of the most influential in the history of philosophy.
Aristotle’s work was a primary influence on the Greek and Roman Stoic traditions, exemplified by thinkers like Zeno, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius—who have become very popular in the past two decades. Many of Dr. Peterson’s ideas deal with issues of discipline, meaning, and what it means to live and die a life well lived. There is a great deal of overlap between both idea sets, but they are not identical.
“I think part of the reason that there’s been a movement online in the Stoic direction and the resurgence of interest in Stoic philosophy is that it’s pretty much exactly the opposite of every philosophy you ever hear about anywhere now. When we veer too far in one direction, those things we forgot start to glimmer in the darkness, and they attract people,” says Peterson.
“Stoicism is a compensatory fantasy in some sense because everyone is concerned about rights and being a victim, about being merciful and all that—and it’s not enough. A compensation emerges, and that attracts people to it, and maybe that can be helpful to people.”
Backing Up A Bit
As we previously reported, modern stoicism or neostoicism is a philosophical movement growing in popularity among modern leaders. Dozens of prominent books and blogs have emerged in the past two decades, with young people embracing this 2,000-year-old philosophical system as a means of self-improvement.
Students of Stoic philosophy have found that it provides a valuable tool for improving mental health, controlling negative emotions, thinking rationally, building discipline, and embodying virtue to better exert control over the world around us.