What is the purpose of an examined life? The examined life is a life that is thought through logically and has a clear and distinct view on the world and everything that makes up the world. An examined life also has a logical purpose and goal to strive for and achieve. Not only is this life preferable but also it is necessary, which is shown through Plato’s writings in the Five Dialogues, that “the unexamined life is not worth living for men” (41, Five Dialogues). Without an opinion and a purpose to fulfill through out life, there is no point in living. The person continues through life, wandering, trying to find the right direction. The seminar that needs to be attended is about how to achieve and examined life through actions and why it is thought to be important. I believe that the purpose in life is to achieve justice within the community and achieve the truest form of friendship which is why Aristotle is the teacher of choice for the seminar of “The Only Life Worth Living: The Examined Life”. Aristotle has a clear view on friendship, a distinct position on justice within the community and has logical methods for presenting his ideas. Aristotle uses his Nicomachean Ethics to show his well-formed idea on justice and friendship, where as Plato demonstrates his lack of Logic in The Republic.
Aristotle is the professor of choice because he has a clear view and understanding on friendship. Friendship is a values trait in the examined life and he has the knowledge on how to achieve the perfect for of friendship. The information that Aristotle is able to contribute to the seminar is helpful in achieving a fully examined life because he explains, “the friendship of a good man implies mutual trust, and assurance that neither partner will ever wrong the other” (222, Ethics). Meaning that a true friendship is built upon trust, without it, the friendship will not survive past the initial bond. Aristotle has a defined opinion on friendship that is based on trust and the virtue of each man in the relationship. He writes, “The perfect form of friendship is that between good men who are alike in excellence or virtue. For these friends wish alike for one another’s good…Hence their friendship lasts as long as they are good and…goodness and virtue is a thing that lasts” (219-220, Ethics). He is able to explain what is necessary for a perfect, long-term relationship between two people. He give people a goal to strive for, goodness and virtue, which will in turn give then the opportunity to have a perfect friendship with another person. Aristotle can give a distinguished opinion on friendship that gives more meaning to the examined life.
Not only does Aristotle have a clear view on friendship but also, he has a distinct position on justice with in the community. He believes that that everyone should strive towards virtue to be the best person possible. He explains in the Ethics that “the law makes pronouncements on every sphere of life, and their aim is to secure the common good of all…The law enjoins us to fulfill our function as brave men…as self-controlled men…and similarly with other kinds of virtue…Thus, this kid of justice is complete virtue or excellence…And for that reason justice is regarded as the highest of all virtues” (113-114, Ethics). With the community striving towards virtues, they are ultimately striving towards justice, according to Aristotle. He explains how the laws progress the society to virtue, which, is the highest form of excellence. Aristotle gives an evident view on how he feels about justice and from were it derives. The idea of justice being the highest virtue is brought up to be the highest goal to obtain and while achieving justice, the perfect friendship can also be achieved because virtue is necessary for the friendship to remain. Thus, Aristotle would contribute to the seminar by explaining how justice plays a key role in society.
The way in which Aristotle presents his idea within the Ethics makes him more appealing for the seminar. He is very precise with his words, making every one of them have a purpose and does not combine tangent topics into his main point. There is a smooth flow that Aristotle has mastered. Each one of the arguments has a distinct idea that is shown through his fluid style. The main reason Aristotle is more appealing is because he starts with a small concept and works his way up to the larger idea. An example of him working his way up to the larger picture is when he discusses courage. He begins his argument with the reasoning of which of man’s actions are voluntary and which are involuntary. He then proceeds to define courage through his definitions of the involuntary and voluntary actions. It is easier to grasp the main idea when is presented through the sub-topics of the idea and then lead up to the larger, main idea because it has been explained and reasoned through all the smaller ideas. These smaller ideas, such as the voluntary and involuntary actions, make up the reasoning for the main idea, the definition of courage. Thus, making it easier to comprehend.
Plato is not the teacher of choice because he is unclear on his definition of friendship. Plato has the idea that “the man who seems to be, and is, good, is a friend...while the man who seems to be good and is not, seems to be but is not a friend. And we’ll take the same position about the enemy” (11, Republic). With this, Plato does not explain what a friend is except for the fact that he “is good”. Not Only does he not define friend well but he also does not give any inclination on how to sustain any kind of friendship, let alone a true form of friendship. Also, it leaves nothing to strive towards; there is no way to strive towards friendship because there is not a given way to achieve it. He would not be a useful teacher within the seminar because he dos not have a clear view on what a friend or a friendship is. It appears that he does not find those terms to be important which leaves a hole in the examined life because friendship is a key element that everyone needs to experience.
Also, Plato does not arrive at a distinguished definition of justice at the conclusion of his argument. He spends a large amount of time trying to define justice through other arguments that are tangential to the argument of justice, which he then tries to relate back to justice. In the end, Plato’s fails in his attempt of trying to relate multiple topics to justice causing him to become lost in his own thoughts. He admits through Socrates that he “let go of [justice] and pursued the consideration of whether it is a vice and lack of learning or wisdom and virtue. And later, when it its turn an argument that injustice is more profitable that justice fell in me why, I could not restrain myself...So that now as a result of the discussion I know nothing” (34, Republic). This shows that Plato does not have a well thought-out idea of justice. He has many key concepts floating around but he has not tied them all together to form one solid idea. Therefore, he gets confused and admits that he does not know anything. Meaning, if a person does not know anything, then de does not have an opinion on the world or a purpose to fulfill. And if Plato does not have a clear understanding and view on the world, it is difficult for him to assist in the seminar about how the examined life is the only life worth living.
The method Plato uses in The Republic is a dialogue. In the dialogue, most of the conversing is done through Socrates, Plato’s character, with other characters interjecting affirmations. It takes away from the ideas Plato is trying to convey because the other characters do not give noteworthy feedback. Although the main reason his method would not work for the seminar is because he uses deduction to come to a conclusion. Through his deduction, he assumes something wrong which then gets him stuck leading him to come to the conclusion that there is no conclusion. It become frustrating to spend large mount of time working through an argument to come to a better understanding of an idea, to come to the end to find out that there is no conclusion. Also, he states out with the main idea with his arguments and deduces his way down to the details. This becomes a problem because the details are forced to fit the main idea, such as justice. Then there are some many details that the main idea becomes altered and there is no resemblance to the original idea. This does not work for the seminar because it is about leading a life with a purpose and having a clear understanding, and Plato’s methods leave the reader searching though the little details to find the main point of the argument.
Basically, Aristotle would be the teacher of choice for the seminar because he uses clear methods to convey his point and he has a well thought-out idea of friendship and how to have the friendship remain, as well as an idea that justice should be the main goal for the community to strive towards. I believe that friendship and justice within the community is extremely important which is why Socrates is not the teacher of choice for the seminar because he does not explain friendship in a detailed manner and does not come to a conclusion about justice. He attempts to fully explain justice but his argument concludes in him admitting he does not know anything. The seminar of the “Only Life Worth Living: The Examined Life” taught by Aristotle has Paige Horvath on the attendance list.