For me, this is the fundamental problem with Stoicism: its denial of happiness as a key goal in life. It does not provide an in-depth inquiry into what is happiness, confusing it with pleasure and joy (which are also different) to the point of using the three words interchangeably.

This problem cannot be ignored. Since the 60s, there has been a major transformation in Western societies about the rejection of puritanism and the acceptance of the body and pleasure. This fueled feminism, gay liberation and the sex-positive movement. It is leading to he acceptance of formerly taboos practices like sadomasochism, ethical non-monogamy and polyamory. I see all this as major progress and do not want to turn back the clock. In fact, I suspect that there is straight line from Stoicism to Christianity to Puritanism. They are based on the wrong ideas about what it means to be human.

I think that there is much to be learned from Stoicism, but I cannot accept it as a philosophy of life. Embracing it without considering the huge amount of progress that took place in the 20th Century and continues to develop right now is simply a big step back.

UCLA professor. Neuroscientist doing research on pain. Writes about science, philosophy, politics and kinky sex.

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