I searched the question a bit and I found these two articles that present some arguments against stoicism. I found some of their more general arguments like Crantor's argument against stoicism promising although as they became more specific their arguments became progressively less convincing. Crantor's argument is as follows:

I cannot by any means agree with those who extol some kind of impassivity (apatheia). Such a thing is neither possible nor beneficial..This absence of pain comes at a high price: it means being numb in body, and in mind scarcely human...

I was hoping to find some arguments against stoicism that use modern scientific discoveries.

Something like this: Attempts at overcoming certain 'destructive' emotions to reach "ataraxia" may result in the permanent loss of other cognitive functions(e.g intelligence) that would be apparent only some time after these attempts have been successful. Anyway what are the some of the most effective arguments against stoicism?

  • 2
    I very much doubt that a link to any such loss of cognitive function exists. Buddhism prescribes something very similar to ataraxia in its "noble truths", and considering how long and wide it is practiced such adverse effects would not have gone unnoticed. To the contrary, some modern cognitive therapies like REBT directly endorse Stoic-inspired techniques as a remedy for anxiety. So you'll have to look for arguments of some other sort, from ethics, not psychology.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 20:38
  • Do you think that subtle loss of cognitive function could have been easily noticed by buddists or stoics? If a small percentage experiences such cognitive loss but a larger percentage benefits it may be very hard for that information to become widely known especially if they have no realiable means to prove it.
    – GEP
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 21:30
  • 3
    It seems you just want it to be true, or do you have some reason for it? "It could still be true" is a suspect argument absent any positive evidence, especially when conditions are added to make it hard to detect. It could still be that invisible weightless unicorns are all around us, we just have no reason to suppose it.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 21:49
  • 1
    Some short objections from Cicero (De Finibus book 4): "There is so much in their teaching that I can hardly understand" (Stoic doctrines are hardly intelligible). "Their meagre little syllogisms ... may convince the intellect, but they cannot convert the heart" (Stoic prepositional logic is hard to refute but doesn't seem true). "In refusing to allow [virtue] to have anything to do with happiness, they again abandon nature" (goal is imitation of nature, but not pursuing happiness is unnatural). See there other longer arguments. (Also, I only get notified of your comment if you write "@ba")
    – b a
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 11:50
  • 1
    On the other hand, willful control of emotions makes people less susceptible to biases and stereotypes that come along with them. The overall effect is too complex to be reasoned out by a priori musings. Moreover, hyperrationality may reduce stress just as carelessness, but the underlying psychology is very different. Ataraxia isn't obliviousness. Stoics rather encourage thinking through the consequences meticulously, in a detached manner, so as not to be taken by surprise and get emotional when they come.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


The arguments against Stoicism that are effective for me, are that the Stoic virtues of rationality, and prudence about their physical existence, fail to capture the values that matter more in this life.

Stoic rationality, and their resistance to emotions, gets in the way of their experiencing and benefiting from Love, Joy, and enthusiasm. If one holds by a Love Virtue ethic, this makes stoicism a harmful ideology. Stoics tend instead to hold by either a Truth virtue ethic, or by a utilitarian consequentialism, in which they presume that life is material.

The physicalism that is intrinsic to stoicism makes their valuation of integrity over mere survival hard to justify. Will a stoic sell out refugees to a Nz search party? Will a stoic perform a negative rational cost-benefit analysis of your low value to him while you are asleep while you two are lost in a lifeboat? Virtues, morality, and integrity, presuppose the reality of non-physical values. And while values and integrity were generally held to by stoics in practice, the theory to justify this choice appears to be in conflict with a core assumption of the philosophy.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .