Stoicism vs Hedonism

Stoicism vs hedonism is a question posed largely based on the ambiguity of these two words. This is a common theme among philosophical disciplines, since many sound equally ambiguous at a surface level. It becomes more cryptic when you consider how many of these disciplines appear to share similar concepts.

As a result, people often unknowingly confuse various philosophies. If they sound similar, they must be similar, right? While this can sometimes be the case, it often couldn’t be further from the truth.

Regarding stoicism vs hedonism, the difference might seem small, but it is important to recognize. The foundation of this distinction is based on the idea of pleasure.

Interested in stoicism, but not sure where to start?

Check out this post of carefully selected books that unpack the values of stoicism and related principles — Click here to read more.

Defining Stoicism

As discussed in this article, stoicism can be described as the practice of shifting focus to the things in life we have the power to control. This includes learning to accept the things outside of our control.

Defining Hedonism

Hedonism promotes the ideology of seeking pleasure and avoiding suffering. These are the only components of well-being according to hedonistic philosophy. 

Stoicism vs Hedonism: the distinction

When comparing stoicism vs hedonism, the most important distinction is based on the idea of pleasure. In stoicism, pleasure is perceived as neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, but rather something to view indifferently. In hedonism, one’s focus is largely set on the pursuit of pleasure.

This doesn’t seem so bad, right? Why wouldn’t you want to pursue pleasure, while limiting the pain you have to endure?

The paradox of hedonism

Hedonism’s foundation of “seeking pleasure” appears valuable at a surface level. The consequence of this pleasure-seeking mentality is the futility of it all. The problem with living life based on the pursuit of pleasure is that you’ll never have enough. The more pleasure you find, the more you want. This attachment to pleasure creates an infinite loop of sorts, ultimately leading to an often miserable existence.

The more pleasure you seek, the more you grow accustomed to your current level of pleasure. It becomes similar to an addictive state of mind where you can never get enough.

The indifference of stoicism

When your sole focus is dialed in on pursuing pleasure, you’re likely to come up empty handed from time to time. This is where stoicism presents an alternative view of experiencing both pleasure and pain. And it’s no secret that we humans experience our fair share of pain opposite our times of pleasure.

As mentioned earlier in this article, stoicism promotes the concept of placing your focus on the things you have the power to control. However, pleasurable and painful experiences are often not something we have control over. Because of this, they’re better when simply experienced rather than sought out.

Additionally, it’s common to become emotionally attached when experiencing pleasure or pain. This is what makes the highs of life higher and the lows lower. But therein lies the problem. Becoming attached to externally derived, uncontrollable experiences generally causes more pain then pleasure. This is because we allow these external events to dictate our mood and state of mind.


In summary, pleasure and pain both play important roles in everyday life. They’re both things that should be objectively experienced.

The key takeaway: Pleasure isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the pursuit of pleasure can be destructive.

If this post resonates with you, share it and subscribe to the enstoic newsletter below. Thank you for your time and support.