Socrates believed that living a life where you live under the rules of others, in a continuous routine without examining what you actually want out of it is not worth living.
This illustration of a lifestyle is what Socrates would describe an unexamined life. Hence Socrates’ renowned statement “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Declaring that humans must scrutinize their lives in order to live a fulfilled one isn’t agreeable to any extent.
Socrates’ statement does instigate discussion, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone’s way of life and what makes or doesn’t make their life worth living. The theory that all lives that are unexamined don’t have a purpose and should not be lived is unreasonable and simply not true.
There is a lot more that contributes to a person’s happiness and well-being besides “examining their lives”. Factors such as life experiences, being with family, things to be thankful for, memories, and reaching success in life. Everything that makes one happy, and a happy life should most definitely be lived whether its examined or not.
Epicurus’ philosophy on happiness, is composed of three things; good companionship (friends), having freedom (being self-sufficient and free from everyday life and politics) and an analysed life (meaning to have time and space to think things through). Epicurus and Socrates have different approaches to the phrase “analysing life”.
Epicurus would advise not to spend money as temporary relief for a bad day but rather take time out and reflect and contemplate. Socrates on the other hand has a different stance. Epicurus believes that analysing your life is one third of what it takes to have a happy life whereas Socrates believes that if you are not constantly reviewing and examining every aspect of your life just so you can get the best out of it, it’s not worth living in general.
De Montaigne was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance and is best known for his skepticism. De Montaigne would’ve had an advancing degree of doubt and disagreement on Socrates’ statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living”.
Socrates said that having a mechanical life with an unthinking routine, under the rules of others without ever examining whether or not they truly want to live with those routines or rules is basically not worth living anymore. However, De Montaigne had a contrary belief on what bring our lives happiness and what makes them “not worth living”.
He believed that human have a tendency to over-think things and that’s mainly where our unhappiness comes from. To be happy De Montaigne knew that we didn’t need intelligence and brain facts, we required wisdom and life experience. De Montaigne urged us to live the best lives we possibly can by simply not worry about our appearance, accept our own and everyone else’s culture, and always endeavour to become wiser.
De Montaigne had quite the opposite approach on how to live a happy life to Socrates. Socrates believed over analysing and examining our lives would lead to better ones, whereas De Montaigne would advise us to spend less time over-analysing and overthinking things as it leads to insecurities that we are all far better off without.
Socrates statement “The unexamined life is not worth living”, is an exaggeration and is predominantly false but does have a degree of truth to it. We must occasionally question ourselves and the world, as otherwise we will act without reason, and be unable to distinguish between good or bad actions, and without this way of thinking Socrates might argue we are no better off than animals.
But with this statement, Socrates promotes the idea that people who don’t examine their lives should not live. Socrates seemed to overlook other factors that account to our happiness and give worth to our lives. In disagreement with Socrates; We all must contemplate now and again but only to a certain extent, as it can be disastrous to overthink and reconsider every aspect of our life.
I think that the examined life is and integral part of existence. Who would not promote self reflection and self examination? These are key in psychotherapy, most if not all religion/practices as well as self help programs.
Let us reflect on our own life – the only one we can truly experience – and not be over (or under) whelmed by the lives of others. Let us all recognize ourselves in the context of our humanity to ourselves and to each other. Let us look within ourselves to find happiness and purpose rather than in the distractions of comparison and acquisition that consume so much of our human time. Let us take the time to reflect on our own being within the framework of all-being and not separate our self from life.
One does not negate the other.
Clearly this thesis portrays the authors lack of understanding of Socrates.
So true. Thank you.
Not only does one not negate the other, but is very possible that the examined life takes one on a road away from family and other default unexamined “virtues” that are in fact socio-cultural cliches that do not stand up under scrutiny. Running with the herd is only a virtue if it is in fact a deliberate choice stemming from the examined life. The reality is that it is indeed possible–and highly likely, in fact–that living the examined life (a la psychotherapy, or contemplative hermit, or religious, or just an assertion of personal freedom) will diverge from the herd and… Read more »
It is not an exaggeration; therefore, neither false..
Socrates was arguing that happiness derived from delusion is fleeting, shallow, and worthless. Happiness from an examined life has far more value.
You mention that: “The theory that all lives that are unexamined don’t have a purpose and should not be lived is unreasonable and simply not true. There is a lot more that contributes to a person’s happiness and well-being besides “examining their lives”. Socrates’ argument and yours are fundamentally different in that Socrates was not invoking happiness and well-being. Nay, he was killed for his unconventionality and clearly believed that meaning and purpose superceded happiness and well-being. For some, happiness and well-being are satisfactory drives for living, for others, meaning and purpose are fundamental. And it can be and has… Read more »
I don’t think either of the arguments given go against Socrates’ statement that, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. Epicurus argues that the examination of one’s life is the most important thing after receiving all the essentials; all that is needed for proper survival. If this was translated into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it would take up the final two stages (after physical needs, safety and love). I don’t understand where your argument on wasting money as a temporary relief has its bases on, Socrates never advises that and it goes contrary to much of what he says. De… Read more »
Socrates made this comment in response to a question as to why he could not simply remain quiet. He was talking about his own values, not applying this universally. If I say that life is not worth living without sports, then it doesn’t mean that anyone who doesn’t like sports is worthless or undeserving to live.
Maybe just report what Socrates said and the context in which he said it and let kids make up their own minds?
Didn’t Socrates state that “an unexamined life is not worth living for human beings”. If he was referring to his own values, as you say, wouldn’t he say something like, an unexamined life is not worth living for me.
There are several factors that deserve consideration: what does Socrates (via Plato) mean by “unexamined”, and “Life”, and “worth”. All of these are slippery terms, not helped by the fact that we are dealing with a translation from Ancient Greek language, and a bunch of ideas that may have had VERY different meanings in a small Mediterranean city 2500 years ago. It is illogical to presume that Socrates would want the vast majority of people to not live. If, however, we view his (alleged) statement in terms of a regret, or an exhortation, then we can understand that Socrates would… Read more »
This argument falls apart given the apparent utilitarian perspective on value of life.