Socrates’ proposition that the “unexamined life is not worth living (Plato The Apology 38a) has intrigued me for a long time. In order to develop a sufficient understanding of what this proposition means, it is necessary to recognize the specifics of the philosopher’s approach to philosophy and how it relates to practical life (Cotterill). The aim of this paper is to defend the position that moral or ‘examined life’ is worth living.
We will write a custom Essay on “Examined Life” in Socrates’ Thesis specifically for you
301 certified writers online
According to Socrates, the examined life is one that is characterized by a commitment to a philosophical inquiry (Plato The Apology 38a). In other words, it is an endless pursuit of virtue, which is not possible without regularly engaging in introspection (Plato The Republic 24c; “Socrates: The Good Life”). My assertion in the debate is that the only life worth living is the examined one. It can be argued that virtuous or ‘good life’ starts with the Ancient Greek dictum ‘know thyself,’ which requests the dismantling of the most cherished beliefs and ideas in order to separate counter-productive and false ones from those that are valuable and true (“Socrates: The Good Life”). Such a life is full of self-examination and inquiry that are often followed by either refutation or confirmation of popular convictions and ideas.
Critical analysis of one’s assumptions and beliefs is essential in the information age, which is associated with a barrage of various ideas and propositions. Without engaging in regular rumination and examination of one’s values and attitudes, it is impossible to determine which of them are of significant value and gravity and which are useless enough to thwart one’s pursuance of virtue. My argument for the good life is partially based on my personal experience of regular, protracted introspection that has helped me to better navigate the modern world and change my assumptions about the nature of the consumption-driven economy. Proponents of the unexamined life maintain that Socrates’ choice to opt for the examined life and take a poisonous drink is “at odds with moral systems that consider life’s value as contingent on the fulfillment of other norms and values” (Preda). However, by taking this line of reasoning, it is possible to justify the existence of communist and other murderous regimes that do not operate on an individual basis, and instead, place the highest value on a well-being of a collective. Interestingly enough, even within a capitalist framework, there is plenty of space for productive rumination on its virtues. A documentary titled “The 11th Hour” points to numerous ills of living the unexamined life—global warming, mass species extinction, and deforestation among others (Conners and Conners). Plato’s allegory of the cave can be used to compare “the effect of education and the lack of it on our nature” (Plato The Republic 514a). Those who strive to recognize reality for what it is can understand the deleterious effects of human impact on the environment and change the course of the future by reducing the harm caused by unexamined actions.
The only life worth living is the virtuous or examined one. It is well within human capacity to transcend instincts shaping some behaviors and make deliberate and conscious choices. By regularly engaging in introspection it is possible to learn how to act in accordance with logic and reason instead of surrendering to the urgings of basic desires. An individual that spends their time in pursuit of virtue can rightfully claim that their life is examined one and worth living.
Conners, Nadia, and Lelia Conners, directors. The 11th Hours. Warner Independent Pictures, 2007.
Cotterill, Thomas. “What Socrates Meant by the Examined Life.” Thomas Cotterill, Web.
Plato. The Apology. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.
—. The Republic. Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Routledge, 2008.
Preda, Adrian. “Is the Unexamined Life Worth Living.” Plos, Web.
“Socrates: The Good Life.” Faculty, Web.