September 09, 2010
Is the unexamined life not worth living?
Socrates was a great man, and is said to be one of the greatest philosophers in history, some may find this notion questionable, based on some of his own teachings. One famous quote is: “The unexamined life is not worth living” Is the unexamined life not worth living? On the contrary, it is! It seems respectful and good to paint a portrait of Socrates, in the manner I will. There is no question that Socrates was and still is the most interesting and influential thinker of all time. He had great insight on how people are and how people thought. The dialogue of Plato, (Socrates’ former student,) provides a (fairly) accurate representation of the man he knew as Socrates. Socrates over-view of life has captivated many. His method of dialectic interrogation creates in him a willingness to accept nothing less than an adequate response to reason. And in this manner Socrates, sought genuine knowledge rather than a mere fancy view. He familiarized himself with the rhetoric and speculations of the Sophists and also the general culture of Athens. He employed the same logical tricks of the Sophists for a new purpose. The pursuit of truth and wisdom was his greatest determination. And so, Western philosophy through Socrates influence on Plato and others have been affected profoundly in a positive way. His dedication has brought about a paradigm shift to the worlds thinking process. Without him philosophy would not have the uplifting tone that it does today. A brilliant man was he, but even Socrates did not have all the answers to questions of life, let alone the universe. His way of thinking has ever been above the norm of his time, to even now. Thus this philosopher was considered to be corrupting the minds of the people he came in contact with, mainly the youths of Athens. But, was he corrupting or improving the way people were thinking, and will think even to today? So you would agree with me that respect is due to him, even though I may not agree With all his beliefs. One of the teachings that was thought to be corrupting the minds of the people, was the teaching that “The unexamined life is not worth living” In Plato’s dialogue The Apology, the viewpoint of the trial and death of Socrates, seem to show some contradictions with some of Socrates’ beliefs. One can ask: was he contradicting himself or do we need to look deeper and wider to understand what he was trying to get across?
This brings me back to the famous quote “The unexamined life is not worth living”. In my mind this quote remains unclear and is a contradiction, where Socrates beliefs are concern. For we know that Socrates had examined his life. And we can safely believe that he had examined his life, even up to the allegations that was made against him. Base on the portrayed trends of Socrates’ life, trends like, he loved his roots, he had an immediate family, and his love and loyalty for Athens; we believe that he would not have run like a coward from the trial. Nor would he have lied in the process of the trial. Now for Socrates who had examined his life, and had the unobstructed privilege to live his own beliefs, this act of refusing an option at this point in his life, seem crazy. He had some good friends, who would have helped him to live. Thus Socrates had some virtuous things for an option. He could have had a better prolonged, fulfilled life, which could include his family and friends, and even the true happiness that he has examined his life for, all these and more. Yet Socrates chose not to continue living. So at this point in our view, one would have questions about Socrates’ decisions from the trial up to his death, and perhaps even his whole life and beliefs. Questions such as:
•Was Socrates still examining his life, from the point of the allegations, up to the point of death? •Were his family a very important part of his life, that could have encouraged him to use the option, grab them and flee Athens maybe? •Did he have some understanding that we are yet to figure out? •How much of a role did the belief in the oracle at Delphi had in his decisions?
Like Socrates we have not all the answers, for we all only see in part. So the quest goes on in search for answers both, about Socrates’ beliefs, and the truth of life. However, it is strange that this great man who taught that “The unexamined life is not worth living,” (this is to say that people should always seek to know themselves and their purpose for living.) That this same man could not have seen life’s simplest but important joys. Joys, like people and the values that could encourage him to clinch to life. And these are some of the good simple virtues, for lots of people in this world that have thought about their lives. So maybe they have not spent fifty or even fifty-five years, examining their lives to a thorough-ness like Socrates. But they find great value and purpose for living. So we ask:
•Why did Socrates examine his life?
•Did he not find anything that could encourage him to hold on to life?
Even today, as hard as life may take us, we will fight to live! In today’s world of technology and advancements that we have accomplished, this belief cannot have the same value that it had when Socrates had pronounced his beliefs. Also some people surely do not appreciate this thought, that today, because they have not achieved According to society’s expected view, their lives are not worth living. It would be lovely if the chance was given to point out to Socrates, As the saying goes: “He who fights and runaway, lives to fight another day” So even the unexamined life is worth living!