An Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living
Essay, Research Paper
AN UNEXAMIND LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING
“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)