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Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living

Socrates’ assertion that “an unexamined life is no life for a human being to live” is one that has been of great interest to the philosophical academia. Analyses on this phrase have generally been broad and confusing, yet greatly intriguing. From the face value, one could argue that Socrates literally meant what he articulated. However, the broadness and the context of this phrase as documented in philosophical writings prove that this was no-doubt a figurative declaration. Emphasizing the vitality of examining ones’ life, the author of this paper posits that Socrates figuratively used the phrase “unexamined life” to explain how important it is for one to seek and find out life’s purpose and meaning at a personal level, but in the benefit of others.

Taken literally, examining one’s life would mean analyzing and evaluating every aspect of life. This would mean a step by step evaluation of the activities that an individual engages in his/her lifetime to determine successes or failure. On the contrary, based on the context under which the phrase was communicated, examining life is far from just examining the daily life events of an individual.  Socrates believed that examining one’s life entails the identification of the life goals and purposes at individual levels that will have great impact on others within the society. Life examination was therefore accomplished by going against the values and norms in place and thinking as an individual on the actions that needs to be undertaken for the said life goal to be accomplished. As reported by Klosko (2013) an examined life is attained when one constantly ask questions that challenges the accepted beliefs that are in place, rather than diligently adhering to them. As such, “an unexamined life” is evident when ones fails to challenge the norms and value of the time other than just not examining the daily live events as would have been the case in the event that the phrase is literally interpreted.

Socrates in his assertion indicated that an unexamined life is no life for an individual to live. His assertion did not literally mean that one is unlikely to live when he /she fails to have an examined life; rather, he figuratively meant that such life is of no value to anyone. Having an examined life does not only give one an opportunity to query the norms in the society but equally allows one to achieve greater goals in life. In his thinking, an examined life extends beyond death and has greater value in influencing the actions of people after death. For instance, people who had an examined life are likely to be legends with great impact on the society. As current observed the works of Socrates is still studied today due to his belief in an examined life. Having an unexamined life is likely to be of minimal significance to any person, thus no life for anyone to live.

Identifying one’s purpose in the society and striving to attain the purpose is important to any person. An examined life does not only allow one to challenge the existing norms and influence the life of others within the society, but equally provide an opportunity for one to have a virtuous life. As observed in the Plato’s apology a number of individuals who failed to examined their lives equally failed to have a worthy or virtues life. For instance, Meletus failed to critically examine the persons that influence the lives of the youths. His thought that all Athenians except Socrates lived a life of virtue that they impart on every youth led to him prosecuting an innocent man (Hackforth, 2014). Further cross examinations also revealed that Meletus had also not impacted the lives of the youths, exposing him as not just one who irresponsibly prosecute others, but also as one who seems to be concerned with issues that he has never shown any care. Similarly, Calias failed to examine the suitable ideals to pursue in building a virtuous life for his kids. He ended up improving the persuasion and public speaking skills of the kids that did not enhance their virtue but rather made them more corrupt.  Callias ended up causing more harm than good to his children. Crito also failed to critically examine whose decisions holds on issues of justice or injustice. He therefore ended up convincing Socrates to escape from prison, an action that is considered unjust. Crito’s eagerness to assist a friend and to go by the demands of the majority, positioned him as uncourageous when dealing with emotional matters. Similarly, Crito’s failed to accomplish his goal of having Socrates escape from prison since Socrates chose to stick to his well-examined life (Hackforth, 2014). Failing to examine certain aspects of life, prevented the chosen cases from achieving their goals and also from positively influencing the lives of others.

Achieving any purpose in life is nearly impossible when one lives an unexamined life. Taking the case of the above persons, the implications of failing to examine various life issues did not only prevent them from achieving their sole purpose but led to them causing harm or injustice to others. Moreover, they fail to attain self-fulfillment that translates to unworthy life. Examined life is therefore important to any individual since it does not only allow one to have a purposeful life at a personal level, but equally enable one to positively influence the lives of others, by avoiding harm or injustice to anyone.









Klosko, G. (2013). History of Political Theory: An Introduction: Volume II: Modern (Vol. 2). Oxford University Press: United Kingdom

Hackforth, R. (2014). The composition of Plato’s Apology. Cambridge University Press: United Kingdom