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1. One of the most famous dicta of Socrates is the statement that “unexamined life is not worth living”, or, as it is formulated in another variant of translation, “a human life without examination is not worth living” (Johnson 74). This viewpoint is quite provocative, especially taking into account the circumstances of this paradigm’s birth: Socrates is pleaded guilty by the jury, and the decision on punishment is about to be made. Choosing between death and exile with disavowal of philosophy, Socrates refused to give up philosophy, and his response was the following: “If I say that this is the greatest good for a human being – to have discussions every day about virtue and the other things … – and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being, you will still be less persuaded by what I say” (Ahbel-Rappe and Kamtekar 227). This perception only convinced the jury, that Socrates should be sentenced to death, because at first glance, it might seem that Socrates neglected all human morale, virtues and nobleness in favor of philosophic thinking, and nearly stated that all people who were not philosophers did not deserve living. From this point of view, Socrates system of values and beliefs was truly dangerous, because it undermined the basis of social existence.
However, more intent consideration of Plato’s Apology shows that Socrates’ message might have a deeper sense: the Greek term “biotos” which is commonly translated as “worth living”, might also mean “to be lived” (Ahbel-Rappe and Kamtekar 231). In this case, Socrates’ thought sounds as “The unexamined is not to be lived”(Ahbel-Rappe and Kamtekar 234), and this is, in my opinion, the true sense of Socrates’ paradigm and the guiding principle of Socrates’ life. Socrates wanted to explain to Athenians that the process of living without realizing and deeply considering the events and people around could hardly be called a human life. Indeed, where is the difference between human beings and animals if both were to follow instincts and impulses, or were to react in the same way to the repeating events?
Biologically, human beings have a very powerful and developed brain, and I believe that it is the prerogative of homo sapiens to act consciously and deliberately, developing wisdom during the whole course of life. From this perspective, pure unconscious belief can be very dangerous, because it deprives people of their utmost gift – free will and reason. People blindly following a certain belief without actually understanding what is going on and why they are doing this turn into a crowd, which is aggressive and impulsive. There is a special “crowd effect”, when even reasonable human beings start acting on the moment in the crowd.
The humanity has already witnessed many dangerous ideas based on pure belief. One of vivid examples of such dangerous ideas is fascism – elitist system, where aggressive nationalism is combined with the dictatorship of the dominating race. This idea has taken away millions of human lives; however, only some of its supporters acted so because of reasonable suggestions; others either followed the leader and simply believed the claims or obeyed led by fear. Actions of religious fanatics and terrorist actions are also examples of such dangerous ideas: reasonable human beings would find these action cruel and immoral, but the ones who prefer blunt acceptance of some imposed system of values do not use their chance for developing own judgments.
Overall, I absolutely agree with Socrates on the value of self-knowledge: people who do not use reason, their most powerful gift, live in ignorance and do not control their lives. Their existence is controlled by the social system, by the beliefs of others, by chance and many other factors, but in no case by themselves. Socrates’ message to the world “the unexamined is not to be lived” was meant to encourage people to find truth in themselves, and to live their lives with true human dignity,