The contemporary world is not a particularly philosophical place, the United States even less so. Philosophy’s reputation can be low enough to make it a convenient whipping boy, as when politicians join in a pile-on on it. So it’s a wonderful surprise when a philosophical tradition becomes a trend.
Such is the recent rise of popular Stoicism in the past decade. While it’s particularly influential in Silicon Valley, the modern Stoic movement is popular around the world, with conventions on multiple continents. Stoicism’s message that external goods are not what makes the difference to living well proved a particularly important consolation during the pandemic, when sales of the works of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius surged.
Now a common observation about the newly popular Stoicism is that it appeals primarily to men. I’ve often heard its practitioners dismissed as “tech bros”. An interview by Skye Cleary observed that Stoicon attenders were primarily men, and took this as an occasion for criticism: little surprise, perhaps, in an era that rarely uses the noun “masculinity” without attaching the adjective “toxic”.Continue reading