The Unexamined Life – Was Socrates Right?

  • Many of us try to block thinking too much about the problems and challenges of our lives by using various kinds of escape.
  • How can we change this harmful pattern?
  • What happens in our community and our world also impacts our personal happiness.

In 399 BC Socrates, a Greek philosopher spoke these words” The unexamined life is not worth living.” These words are just as true today as they were those many centuries ago.

Why was it so difficult then and still is so hard today to look at our lives and our world with a critical eye? It is difficult because what we find when we examine things too closely is that much that is happening to us is not perhaps what we had hoped our lives would be and when we acknowledge that truth, we must then make an effort to either accept and adjust to harsh realities or to begin to make possible changes— both difficult alternatives because so much of who we are has been shaped by forces over which we had no control when we were young and happened before we were able to critically evaluate those thoughts and choices This makes our current thoughts and actions harder to evaluate and change

Socrates (c. 470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon.

A more common choice that many people make is to escape thinking too much about what is happening to them or their world by masking their problems with all sorts of available drugs–constant new experiences, tranquilizers, food addictions, current fashionable drug and liquor choices. All of which ultimately do not solve problems, but rather become harmful addictions in themselves and complicate their lives even further.

How is it possible to change this harmful cycle?

The first truth we must learn is that there has never been an easy road to change. We have become the individual that we are today because of many influences both from inborn tendencies and from past negative and positive experiences. If some trait that we carry from the past is no longer working for us, we must have the courage to look at it with a critical eye and make the necessary changes.

We must make sure that each day and each week and each month has some sort of balance between responsibility and relaxation. This balance is an essential component of a happier life. We must also re-evaluate our relationships so that most of them give us a sense of satisfaction. All of this takes introspection, critical thinking, honesty and the desire to live a happier life and the courage to change what is no longer working well.

If we need professional help to make all of these changes, we are lucky to live in a time when such help is readily available. When we strive to make our lives happier, we also become more aware of our world and its impact on our lives and consequently want to try to make it a better and happier place, because what happens in our community and our world also impacts our personal happiness.

The examined life is ultimately a happier, more creative life which helps us function both personally and socially in a more loving way and which benefits not only ourselves, but our families, our communities, and ultimately our world.

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June Stepansky

June Stepansky is a published writer and poet who writes books and articles about happiness, self-improvement and social and political issues. Free books by June Stepansky A Different Voice—free self-help book Kaleidoscope—free poetry book

3 thoughts to “The Unexamined Life – Was Socrates Right?”

  1. Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated. I have read your well-written and informative article on Chernobyl and I also have noticed your many other interesting and informative articles.

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