I was wondering if these two paths have similarities in their implementation or if they are two different paths that lead to the same place?

Peterson is very interesting in doing something meaningful in life and taking responsibility.

Stoicism seems to me about addressing negative feelings, gratitude and reducing hedonic adaptation.

So where do they cross over and where do they eventually meet up?

  • 6
    Peterson is not a philosopher and his book and all of his talks about personal responsibility is just a rehashing of generic self help mantras that have been around for years. "Clean your room" isn't an original line of though to him, he doesn't have ownership of that point of view. The Stoics cared about virtues above anything else, that isn't the same as the personal responsibility self help banalities that Peterson has been promoting. As it's currently formulated, this isn't a good question for the site. It also has absolutely nothing to do with Nietzsche.
    – Not_Here
    Mar 15, 2018 at 14:39
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    @Not_Here, I came here expecting to find a condescending, derogatory, insulting and completely uncalled for response such as yours. it is in a way comforting to find reality can sometimes be as expected as clock work. comforting, and in this particular case a bit funny too.
    – nir
    Mar 15, 2018 at 14:50
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    Peterson isn't a philosopher, but I wouldn't put him in the self-help genre quite so simply -- unless all of psychology (meaning the clinical and academic sort) is.. He's a PhD holder in psychology who taught at Harvard and teaches at the University of Toronto. / That said I don't actually see a connection between his thought and stoicism...
    – virmaior
    Mar 15, 2018 at 14:55
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    @virmaior Yes, his PhD work and the actual clinical psychology that he has done is not self help, but the ideas presented in this specific book are the definition of generic self help.
    – Not_Here
    Mar 15, 2018 at 15:07
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    Really, I bought a copy of it to read on an airplane, and it seems mostly to be Jungian psychology mixed with a decent understanding of Heidegger and a large dose of neuroscience and experimental data. I can't say I'm greatly impressed so far but maybe I haven't read enough self help to know if that's the way the genre is written.
    – virmaior
    Mar 15, 2018 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


I can't really answer your question definitively being neither a deep expert in stoicism nor in Peterson's thought (I've done one graduate course on hellenistic philosophy and I've seen some of Peterson's youtube stuff), but given those caveats I will give it a shot.

I would suggest that the two aren't that similar.

First, it helps to understand what stoicism believes and not merely how people imagine stoics to be (perhaps there's quite a bit of slippage here between "stoicism" and the historical philosophical body of thought Stoicism). It's not a philosophy of self-help per se but rather a theory about the nature of the universe, determinism, and our place in it. Specifically, it holds that all things are causally determined and unchangeable -- the only things we can control our responses to the world we are in. Stoicism is also a theory about happiness -- specifically, it maintains that happiness is the use of reason. i.e. to respond to all things virtuously and with ataraxia (without worry).

Differing from Aristotle, the stoics (see for instance Marcus Aurelius) believed that external accoutrements are not necessary for happiness -- only virtue is. And only our vices causes us harm.

Stoicism was one of several competing "philosophies" where philosophy here differs somewhat from the contemporary style and is a type of "life philosophy" and set of religious (or quasi-religious) practices.

In contrast, Peterson appears to be advocating something built on Jungian archetypes and contemporary psychological studies and methods. The Jungian bit is that there's an arc of experiences you need to undergo in order to achieve a good life or happiness (struggle with darkness and overcome or something like that) plus data-based claims about how people should organize their life for good outcomes.

In this sense, it's also a type of life philosophy (or as one commenter derisively puts its "self-help.")

I'm sure there's some superficial overlap in that nearly all life-philosophies would give some of the same advice. E.g., "do something meaningful" is advice that just about anyone would agree to -- until we decide what "meaningful" means.

tl;dr - both are approaches and theories about what you need to live a good life. Beyond that, they don't seem to have much in common.

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