"The unexamined life is not worth living.”
—Socrates, during his trial for heresy in Athens, 399 BC
Socrates was in trouble. He had been encouraging the youth to enquire and ask questions, thus challenging the political and religious status quo. He was not teaching people what to think, but for teaching them how to think. The price for his philosophical endeavours was the choice between exile or a fatal dose of hemlock. He defended himself at his trial but to no avail, in the end accepting the hemlock.
Socrates symbolises the great spirit of enquiry, a search for authenticity as well as a resolute defiance in the face of state-sanctioned bullying and forces that kept people shackled in unquestioned limiting beliefs. In Ancient Greece, as with most states and political milieus since that time, the agenda was the teaching of 'what to think' and ‘what to believe’, the tenets of which, if accepted, led to a form of collective sleep.
So what is the meaning of an examined life? If it is the examining of a life subject to intellectual enquiry and analysis, we would be reducing ourselves to just the thinking function of mind, and in doing this our examining would only be partial. As important as our ability to think is – and the knowing of how to think as Socrates championed – even more important is the knowing of who we are, and in this knowing, understanding how we are limited by the mind.
© Andy Green 2015