Socrates was considered by many to be the wisest man in ancient Greece. While he was eventually condemned for his wisdom, his spoken words are still listened to and followed today. When, during his trial, Socrates stated that, “the unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato 45), people began to question his theory. They began to wonder what Socrates meant with his statement, why he would feel that a life would not be worth living. To them, life was above all else, and choosing to give up life would be out of the picture. They did not understand how one would choose not to live life just because he would be unable to examine it.
Socrates felt that if he was unable to examine life, he would not be really living. To Socrates, living meant being able to question the world around him. Examining life gives one freedom. Once one examines himself and understands who he is, he can take control of his life. Socrates believed that the ability to ask, to examine, and to understand would make a life whole. He believed that the purpose of life was to grow, both physically and spiritually. Being able to explore and understand would lead to a deeper understanding of the world around us as well as a deeper understanding of ourselves.
(Plato 46) Socrates felt that, above all, one should be a good citizen and always do the right thing (Plato 18). However, many in his time did not worry about doing what was correct. Socrates realized this, and understood that they did not care to look into their actions and beliefs. Their first thoughts were on the goals that they had, such as money and pleasure, rather than the thought of whether or not the goals they held were actually what should have been considered important and right (Plato 26). Socrates knew that, unless they took the time to question their lifestyles, they would never do the right thing.
By living a life that was being examined, the citizens would be living a life that was, for the most part, also right. Socrates… Personally, I have found great value in examining the wisdom of many acts in my life, yet there are many types of people in this world, and if some do not ponder the wisdom of their actions much at all, must we (or particularly they) conclude their life is less worth living? It seems awfully condescending. The people who don’t examine their lives much probably aren’t examining Socrates statement. If they did, they might object to the interpretation with which it is adopted by philosophers.
The live in which I let other people tell me what the questions of life are, the life in which I let other people give me their answers without my thinking through to my own answers, is the unexamined life. Socrates is saying that the life in which I ask my own questions and answer them for myself in a reasonable manner is a more valuable life than the unexamined life. The examined life is so much better than an unexamined life that Socrates is willing to die for that value. Through out generations, mankind has been asking themselves what is the purpose of life.
And obviously, it would not easy for one alone to answer or explain what the meaning of life is. Nevertheless, one’s life is monotonous if it is meaningless, and it is not monotonous if it has a purpose, a target to go. Thus, the question here is how one knows that his life is worth living or not? Socrates, the father of ancient philosophy, once stated, “An unexamined life is not worth living. ” In order to make one life becomes worth to live, this famous statement strongly addresses that one must exanimate himself first and then others in the society to find the meaning and happiness of life.
After reading Plato’s account of Socrates defense, the Apology, I was completely blown away by the power of Socrates words and ideas. The reading left me thinking about how I felt regarding what he had said about virtue, truth and the quest for both. In class, we discussed Socrates search for virtue and we touched on the topic of this paper: the reasons Socrates believed that “the unexamined life is not worth living for man”. It is my opinion that he is correct in that view and in this paper I intend to show you why. Like many philosophers alive in his time, it was Socrates belief that virtue could only be attained through examination.
Only through exploration can you really understand what virtue is, and begin to act virtuously. Understanding, as well as sharing, this information was very important goal to Socrates. The significance of examining and understanding our lives is far greater than one might think. Understanding and comprehending the behavior of friends, as well as of ourselves, enables us to have empathy and compassion for them. And, allows us not to stand in judgment, which, in turn, allows us to live the moral, noble lives that Socrates spoke of.
As one analyzes the “Apology” by Plato, one is able to analyze and contrast and most people would agree with Socrates when he claims that “…the unexamined life is not worth living…”. From a more personal standpoint I would completely agree with Socrates point of view, due to the fact most of us in society have chosen to live the “unexamined life” for centuries and as a result we live in a society where one has to live segregated from our freewill as human beings as well as a society that is restrained by rules and other types of social “walls”.
When one reads and is able to contrast Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” it clearly shows a great and perhaps the most clear example of the point that Socrates was attempting to make to the jury, in the “Apology”. For example in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, Plato makes the reader visualize a cave where there are a great number of prisoners who are restrained and are faced staring at the wall where all they can see is shadow movements that are projected from a fire that is placed right behind these prisoners, and this fire is displaying false images from what appears to be images of the outside world.
As the story proceeds, one of the prisoners manages to pe the cave and he walks outside into the “real” world and is able to see a completely different view of the real world and this prisoner is able to see a completely different image of the outside world, different from the images that the shadows inside the cave were exposing to the prisoners.
What Socrates is implying is that if one decides not to discover thyself and attempts to focus more on material interest and the acquisition of personal power, one is capable of abusing this power to an extent where it may result in havoc and possibly the destruction of those who occupy the state, either emotionally or physically and all as a result of decisions that were not taken into consideration before being applied.
” What I was able to grasp from this quote that Socrates phrased is that one has the wisdom to accomplish anything in one’s personal life, but one should able to find our soul and locate the wisdom that one contains inside the mind before one attempts to reach personal obstacles in life. the greatest good of all man is daily to converse about virtue. When the time for the exam came along I decided not cheat in the exam simply because I was going
to have to live with a guilty conscious for quite sometime and although cheating on the exam appeared tempting at the time I still needed some time to myself and ponder about the decision that I had to make that was probably going to damage my personal morality as an individual. ” The part of the phrase that really caught my attention is when Socrates says “. ” What Socrates is trying to make us see is that the more one speaks about virtue the more a person is able to learn about the “virtues” of one’s personal life, or in other words we are able to acquire more knowledge of the human mind and its capabilities.
I did not go where I could do no good to you or to myself; but where I could do the greatest good privately to everyone of you , thither I went, and sought to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself , and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state before he looks to the interests of the state; and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions.
In my third semester in Santa Monica College I was taking a math class and during the first month of the semester I had already taken two exams and had failed on both, as a result before the day of the third exam arrived I was feeling somewhat nervous due to the fact that I was not prepared to take this exam. So as the moment was arriving for this exam, I began to ponder about idea of cheating in order for the results to go my way.
When the escaped prisoner decides to go into the cave and attempts to explain to the other prisoners about what is really occurring in the outside world, the other prisoners decide to gain up on the “liberated” prisoner, because they were not prepared to see reality for what it really is, so they decided to chose to somewhat live the life of a “social slave” and not the life of a person who lives a life of freedom nor freewill. Another quote that Socrates applies in this story is when he quotes “.
The same thing goes for the “unexamined life”, sometimes we as a human being attempt to achieve a certain level of success in life and sometimes at the expense of others and although we may acquire success, we will always live with the conscious of such guilt that later on in life it is going to comeback and hunt us. “The unexamined life is not worth living. ” (Apology, p. 41) Socrates held him self up to this standard by allowing the courts to take his life because they would not allow him to continue his quest set forth by the Oracle.
An unexamined life would be just coasting through and not making any decisions or asking any questions. Socrates could not see a point in living if you were unable to ask questions and challenge your way of thinking. An examined life would be trying to understand your purpose and the current state of things. By examining your life, therefor understanding yourself, you will not be subject to actions motivated by passion or instinct. Socrates demonstrated this when Crito arrived at his jail cell with news that he could help Socrates escape.
This was an event where they had to act quickly, however Socrates said “Let us examine the question together, my dear friend, and if you can make any objection while I am speaking, make it and I will listen to you, but if you have no objection to make, my dear Crito, then stop now from saying the same thing so often, that I must leave here against the will of the Athenians. I think it important to persuade you before I act, and not to act against your wishes. See whether the start of our enquiry is adequately stated, and try to answer what I ask you in the way you think best.
” (Crito, p. 51) Socrates examines the situation with Crito instead of acting hastily. This example displays how dedicated Socrates was to his way of thinking, and helps explain Socrates actions in court. Meletus was the catalyst of this case brought against Socrates. Meletus’s affidavit said “Socrates is guilty of wrongdoing in that he busies himself studying things in the sky and below the earth; he makes the worse into the stronger argument, and he teaches these same things to others. ” (Apology, p.
25) Socrates says all these claims are false and challenges anyone in the court to speak up if they are true. Socrates was also accused of corrupting the young and of not believing in the gods the city believed in but believing in his own gods. Socrates attacked each of these accusations point by point. To disprove the accusation that he corrupts the young he says “They say: That man Socrates is a pestilential fellow who corrupts the young. If one ask them what he does and what he teaches to corrupt them, they are silent, as they do not know.
” (Apology, p. 29) To disprove the statement that he does not believe in the gods the city believes in, he starts to question the jury. Socrates states “Does any man, Meletus, believe in human activities who does not believe in humans? ” “Or in flue-playing activities but not in flute-players? ” (Apology, p. 32) Socrates sets up these analogies so he can compare them to the statements that he does not believe in any gods. Socrates then applies this analogy to himself by saying
“Then since I do believe in spirits, as you admit, if spirits are gods, this is what I mean when I say you speak in riddles and in jest, as you state that I do not believe in gods and then again that I do, since I do believe in spirits”. (Apology, p. 32) Socrates in his defense is trying to prove that Meletus’s charges are blown out of proportion and they are wasting the courts time. Socrates is posed with the question “Are you not ashamed, Socrates, to have followed the kind of occupation that has led to your being now in danger of death?
” (Apology, p. 33) Socrates replies “Whenever a man has taken a position that he believes to be best, or has been placed by his commander, there he must I think remain and face danger, without a thought for death or anything else, rather than disgrace. ” (Apology, p. 33) Socrates is saying when you dedicate your life or you strongly believe in a belief or subject no matter what the danger, you should still stand behind your beliefs. By doing this, you live an examined life.
In Socrates case, if he were to accept the punishment of never practicing philosophy he would be living an unexamined life because he could just set aside his beliefs and move on through life. Socrates explains his passion for philosophy by saying “Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practise philosophy, to exhort you and in my usual way to point out to any one of you whom I happen to meet. ” (Apology, p. 34) The way Socrates explains himself to the jury, I see a man who truly believes in what he preaches.
He demonstrates that he has lived an examined life, and even with the threat of death and an opportunity to escape death, he sticks with what he truly believes is right. He questions everything and will not accept ignorance. However I feel that since Socrates was at the age of 70 his fear of death was dramatically reduced. I think if he were younger he would have taken the opportunity Crito presented to escape, so he could continue his quest. “Now the hour to part has come. I go to die, you go to live. Which of us goes to the better lot is know to no one, except the god. ” (Apology, p. 44)