The Genius of Philosophy
Human Belief's and The Unexamined Life
Socrates and The Unexamined Life
When Socrates stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living” he believed that those who didn’t question their purpose of this human experience have yielded their direction in life to chance and given their power away to others. In the “Apology”, Plato wrote about the trial of Socrates defending his philosophical thinking. Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth and received much persecution for his teachings. Socrates was a deep thinker, questioner and therefore an examiner of what he felt was the most important of values and morals. He also felt that there should be a logical explanation to his inquiries of seeking the truth.
Some of the people in the time of Socrates believed that they had all the knowledge and right answers. Socrates believed that he knew nothing and in that he was wiser because he was open to questioning everything. He realized that the more questions he asked there were more things he didn’t know. Dying with his beliefs was just as important as living for what he believed was good. Death isn’t always bad and life isn’t always good, it’s your intentions and your actions that matter for “acting the part of a good man or of a bad”(Jowett, 1994-2009).
When one begins to “know thyself” as inscribed on the Delphi temple, then one has begun to examine their life. The oracle at Delphi, who was sought by individuals for answers, thought Socrates was “the wisest of men”(Jowett,1994-2009). His students, “described him as ‘the bravest, most wise and most upright man of our times’ and perceived him as a martyr for the truth in a corrupted society”(Solomon,1977). However, Socrates knew that there was no pool of knowledge of everything, but only more questions. His method of questioning an answer with more questions aroused much discussion and controversy.
The importance of examining a life made it more valuable. Self-awareness would increase by asking more questions regarding the basic concepts of life. In the “Apology”, Plato stated, “you may feel irritated at being suddenly awakened when you are caught napping” (Jowett, 1994-2009). Plato was making the argument to Socrates’ accusers that awakening to the reality of one’s life could be unsettling. To become more conscious one must wake up and examine their life. By killing Socrates the people of Athens thought it would rid them of their “gadfly”; which they found to be irritation.
Throughout Socrates trial, he used reason to speak to the accusers. Socrates refuses to appeal emotionally to the jury even though most people in his position would either beg or cry. Socrates was found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens by teaching them to use reason in their choices. Reason to Socrates was the ability of the mind to think and use logic. By living as a moral human one would be able to cultivate a life of happiness. Making choices based on reasoning was better than making choices based on one’s emotions. It was important for young people to feel comfortable in asking questions about life as part of their learning experiences. Socrates found dangerous to those who would take possession of children’s “minds with their falsehoods” (Jowett, 1994-2009).
In conclusion, it was more important for Socrates to remain true to his beliefs and die, than to deny his beliefs and live. He was not afraid of death; instead he thought it was a blessing that he could look forward to the afterlife and examine the wisdoms of the afterlife as well. To not examine a life would not be a life worth living because it would have no meaning or sense of purpose. There would be a lack of conscience in choices made. Socrates encouraged individuals to ask questions about basic moral concepts. Those who do not examine their lives make unconscious decisions and fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human. Socrates, therefore, demonstrated that in his own life that being fully human can be a challenge. Even though he suffered from the ignorance of his accusers, he remained true to himself. “In addition to this, Socrates did more than any other individual to establish the principle that everything must be open to question – there can be no cut and dried answers, because answers, like everything else, are themselves open to question” (Magee, 1998, p.23).
Magee, B. (1998). The Story of Thought. The Essential Guide to the History of Western Philosophy.
Jowett, B.(1994-2009). Apology by Plato. The Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html
Solomon, R.C. (1977). Introducing Philosophy. A Text with Readings Third Edition. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich