An Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Leaving

A summary and deep analysis of one of Socrates' famous quotes.

The sentence 'an unexamined life is not worth living is one of the famous quotes of Socrates (470BC - 399BC), the first great trio of ancient Greek philosophers. Before we delve into the meaning of the sentence, it is necessary pertinent to know the meaning of the two phrases made up of words thus: 'an unexamined life' and 'not worth living', whose combination makes up the sentence (quote). An unexamined life is one that has not undergone thorough scrutiny, investigation, meditation, research, and analysis on the purpose of living. It means existing but not knowing the reason or purpose, not knowing that important aim one has to achieve in life. Here, interrogative questions like; what is life? What does it mean to be alive? What is the purpose of living? Why are we here? What are we living for? What is that which we ought to achieve or fulfill before leaving the world because death is certain? Etc, has not been asked or pondered on and has not been answered to the satisfaction of those who asked in order to know the purpose of living. '..not worth living' means not deserving to exist, not having the value of living or being alive, and not having the required prerequisites to be qualified to live. It simply means living but not deserving to live or exist. Therefore, in combining the phrases, the meaning of the sentence (Socrates's quote), "An unexamined life is not worth living," means a life that has not undergone thorough scrutiny, meditation, analysis, thinking, and investigation on its purpose does not deserve to be alive or have the value of existing as it is not qualified to live. Simply put, a life that has not undergone absolutely careful scrutiny, investigation, and analysis on the reason for a living does not deserve to exist! 

This is, in fact, true and necessary in living a coordinated and fulfilled life, for if every member of the society, after thorough meditation on the purpose of living, begins fulfilling such purpose (which ought to be positive), then the society will be a better and orderly place. Persons having the knowledge of their purpose in life have the knowledge of who they are, what they are, and why they are, thereby making them live life with integrity in order to fulfill such purpose, a life true to their core values. Examining life or the purpose of living guides one to discover and start doing such things, which adds meaning to his life by patterning his activities in line with such things; thus, the rate of living longer, happier, and being able to survive, increases. Research has shown that examining and knowing the purpose of living life has become the major criterion for measuring how happy and fulfilling one's life is.

Persons living an unexamined life, on the other hand, having no idea of the purpose of living, lives life carelessly and disorderly and becomes liabilities to the society as they contribute to the chaos, nuisance, and disorderliness. Society passes through because they've not been disciplined enough to sit down, examine their lives, find their purpose, and be determined to follow it. This kind of life is what Socrates says does not deserve to be alive or live(not worth living). A life that does not add value to the person living it and to the people around is so because it has not undergone examination, thereby making it not worth living. Self-examination and indeed reflection entails absolute, utter, and perfectly complete study of one's life and purpose of living. As a child grows to young age and subsequently towards adulthood, he begins to walk toward being independent and useful to both himself and the society at large; he searches for a purposeful life and walks towards achieving it. But to what extent can we say that an unexamined life doesn't have a purpose? Before one discovers his purpose, he must have meditated on it, and we say he has examined his life; thus, it is crucial to say that examining life and having a purpose are intertwined.

Does this also imply that those who haven't examined their lives are not happy? If they're happy even when not examining their life, do we say such a life is still not worth living? Such life is not worth living only when such happiness is gotten at the expense of other people's happiness and at the expense of the society's wellbeing, norms, orderliness, values, and laws. It is important to say that examining one's life helps one live a coordinated life, not just being happy; it helps one live life with a sense of coherency and orderliness, especially when such happiness is not at the expense of another people's happiness. It is necessary for one to examine life, but that doesn't mean such a life is not worth living, especially a happy one; in so far as life is happy (even if it's not happy), it deserves to live. Now, a life that is not only unexamined but also causes chaos, societal ills, and stirs bitterness among the people is one that doesn't deserve to exist or live. But there are also people who have examined their lives but still decide to live disorderly, disturbing civil peace and public order; they are not disciplined as they lack self-control/ submission and obedience to authority; their purpose is to cause crime and this, according to Durkheim, is functional and normal because it is inevitable. To him, societal ills and crimes are impossible to avoid/ prevent; they are unavoidable, functional, and important because it brings about change and restores collective sentiments. There must be some individuals, even after examining their lives, who still differ from collective ties, and when that is the case, criminal activities emanate. 

In conclusion, Socrates, in saying "an unexamined life is not worth living," implies that one should know the purpose of living, whether good or bad, not just living without having an idea of the reason for living because such life doesn't deserve to exist.

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