The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

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JackDaydream
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The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by JackDaydream »

The idea of the examined life arises from a statement which is attributed to Socrates, 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. Stephen Groz wrote a book,' The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves' (2015), coming from a psychoanalytic point of view. This approach seems to involve the meaning of examination as being about knowing oneself, which may a lifelong quest, involving reflection on experiences.

The idea of the examined life can also involve critical thinking about life, and a questioning approach in general. It may involve going beyond the ideas which one grows up with and about questioning values and ideas including one's own. In the information age, there is so much information on the internet, but knowledge may go deeper than mere information, in being assimilated as understanding. This may be about thinking about ideas in relation to personal experience.

Also, information often is based on facts and theories, even in philosophy. Another aspect of searching is in the value of stories in life. Life is within a web of stories, which involve mythical structures and archetypes, such as the warrior, the lover, the fool, and many others. Also, these are explored in literature and the arts, which may be important as science in understanding reality and 'truth'.

I do find that my own quest in life is about understanding myself and the nature of reality, even though it is not always easy. Some people seem more drawn to this than others and it may be part of the reason why people are drawn to philosophy. Sometimes, it does seem that the process involves coming up with so many new questions, and it is a bit like unravelling endless coils. Some find philosophy as a pointless task, but I feel that, if nothing else, it is important to look at issues from different points of view, and critically, and in conjunction with reflection on experiences. How do you see the idea of the examined life and how important do you regard this?
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JackDaydream
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by JackDaydream »

The full sentence in which Plato quotes Socrates is,
'I say that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those others, for the examined life is not worth living.' In this context the nature of examination is about the values held important. So, it can be said that the idea of the examined life is about the questions of how to live, including personal and social ethics.

The question of how to live is so much more complicated in the current world of pluralism and diverse ideas. Philosophy can become an academic pursuit and even when it is done out of personal interest there is so much to think about and explore. It is possible to get lost in the maze of ideas and, even lose oneself in the process which started out to be about self knowledge. It may be that there needs to be a balance between reading and reflection, which is difficult to achieve. What do you think? Part of the reason why I find forum discussion worthwhile is because it gives dialogue with others rather than struggling to think about ideas and clarify personal values and beliefs. It can be difficult to alter deep seated beliefs. How much is dependent on reason and how much is about life experiences as a trigger for changing ideas? Generally, I find that it is some of the hardest and painful experiences which shake up my ideas more than anything else and lead me to explore different angles on ideas, ranging from those about religion, the mind and about ethics. I keep an open mind on many issues and some may think that this is 'sitting on the fence', but it is because often that seems to be the only place to be, looking out at the wilderness of so many paths and directions which appear possible.
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LuckyR
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by LuckyR »

I read your comment on changing one's ideas and while I agree completely about having an open mind so that you can consider new information, I am not necessarily seeking to "change" my worldview. Rather at this point in my life, that is with fewer years ahead of me than behind, I have been refining, though not exactly changing my viewpoint for a very long time. So now I've got it sharpened to a very fine point. Certainly I acknowledge there are even more opinions out there than what I have considered so far, but having been searching for as long as I have, I hear 75 old opinions for every new one at this point. And even new information I encounter is somewhat related to something I have heard before.
"As usual... it depends."
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JackDaydream
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by JackDaydream »

LuckyR wrote: May 26th, 2022, 2:22 am I read your comment on changing one's ideas and while I agree completely about having an open mind so that you can consider new information, I am not necessarily seeking to "change" my worldview. Rather at this point in my life, that is with fewer years ahead of me than behind, I have been refining, though not exactly changing my viewpoint for a very long time. So now I've got it sharpened to a very fine point. Certainly I acknowledge there are even more opinions out there than what I have considered so far, but having been searching for as long as I have, I hear 75 old opinions for every new one at this point. And even new information I encounter is somewhat related to something I have heard before.
I do agree about sharpening ideas more than simply changing ideas. There has to be some really clear reason for changing them completely and I would be surprised if I suddenly found a completely new perspective out of nowhere, or on the basis of some book which I came across.

I guess the perspective which I come from is that I can get so easily absorbed in a book that I can usually see some persuasive power of it. I can easily step into another's worldview, unless there is something which stands out as being clearly incorrect. I used to read so much and not talk about the ideas much and I got to the point about a year and a half ago where I discovered such a fuzziness to many of the ideas which I had been reading.

When I was a student and did a number of philosophy modules, I don't think that I ended up with any definite ideas. Part of the problem was going away to study was so much a social adventure that I probably got caught up in that to the point where some of the real questioning of ideas got a bit lost. It was only when I found difficul times and became low in mood that I really began grappling with ideas in a big way.

In a way, it is not simply about the need to have a clear opinion that is important but about the 'truth' or validity of it. The problem is that I don't see any one clear 'truth' as in one absolutely correct viewpoint. For example, I can read writers who come from religious perspectives and from atheist ones and see sound reasoning in both. It seems that there is logic and lack of it in most philosophies and it is about clarity of thought, and careful weighing of ideas. Also, there are basic attitudes and biases which each person has and these can lead to blindspots. For example, I am aware that I gravitate to some mystical philosophies, including those in Eastern philosophy, but I am not in favour of simply settling for going beyond words and explanations. So, I see searching and exploring philosophy as being a mixture of understanding oneself but with correspondence in looking at the various aspects of life, including ideas behind religion, politics and ethics in a scrupulous way. I am not sure to what extent others, including many of the people on the forum see philosophy in that way. The reason why I wonder if others on the forum do come from this approach is because often it seems that some, but not all, seem to be coming from really definite viewpoints, although often the full logic of this is not fully explained. This may be connected to the way in which beliefs are often based on attitudes primarily.
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Ecurb »

JackDaydream wrote: May 25th, 2022, 10:15 pm The full sentence in which Plato quotes Socrates is,
'I say that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those others, for the (un)examined life is not worth living.' In this context the nature of examination is about the values held important. So, it can be said that the idea of the examined life is about the questions of how to live, including personal and social ethics.
We cannot assume from this quote that Socrates thought the "examined life" WAS worth living. Maybe life is not worth living either way.

I wonder what Xanthippe thought about this nonsense. I can picture her now, saying, "If you would take out the trash and mow the lawn instead of ego-maniacally examining your life down at the agora (when you're not busy buggering young boys), maybe your life WOULD be worth more -- to me, at least."

On the other hand, if you don't examine your life, you will never improve. Toward that end, I sometimes video my swing, and try to create more lag on the downswing by keeping "connection" between my right arm and chest. This prevents the "over the top" move that leads to a slice.
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Tegularius »

One examines one's life best by its consequences not by any psychoanalytic mumbo jumbo, especially when practiced on oneself. Knowing oneself in the Socratic sense is highly overrated and usually leads to no conclusion or the wrong one. It amounts to nothing more than a self-image based on a hypothesis that everything which amalgamates to create a person can be known. The only thing possible to know is the skin, far less what lies underneath.
The earth has a skin and that skin has diseases; one of its diseases is called man ... Nietzsche
Ecurb
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Ecurb »

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Matthew 16:25

The word translated here as "life" is sometimes translated as "soul". Jesus, I think, is advocating the anti-Socratic approach. Don't go searching for your soul, he says. Search for something else. Follow me. Instead of examining your own life, examine my life, or (at least) the life of other people.

This seems like sound advice. We learn more about ourselves by studying biology, or physics, or art, or literature that by self-examination. By looking outward, we see both the world and ourselves. By looking inward, we fail to see the world, and often fail to see ourselves.

From the perspective of the bibilical quote, the priest who tries to save the souls of others saves his own, as well.
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JackDaydream
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by JackDaydream »

Ecurb wrote: May 28th, 2022, 9:42 am
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Matthew 16:25

The word translated here as "life" is sometimes translated as "soul". Jesus, I think, is advocating the anti-Socratic approach. Don't go searching for your soul, he says. Search for something else. Follow me. Instead of examining your own life, examine my life, or (at least) the life of other people.

This seems like sound advice. We learn more about ourselves by studying biology, or physics, or art, or literature that by self-examination. By looking outward, we see both the world and ourselves. By looking inward, we fail to see the world, and often fail to see ourselves.

From the perspective of the bibilical quote, the priest who tries to save the souls of others saves his own, as well.
I have read both your posts and was just about to reply to the first, but reading the two together gives a clearer indication of your perspective. I don't think that Socrates meant that the examined life was not worth living. Eventually, he took a martyr's death but that seemed to be more a matter of principle.

The idea of life being not worth living is more in line with the nihilism of Camus, who saw suicide as a form of 'metaphysical rebellion'. I have known people who have committed suicide or made serious suicide attempts and it seems to be about getting to the point of desperation or despair. Personally, I don't judge people who committed suicide or made attempts, but I do see it as being one of the worst possible deaths. I would rather pursue the examined life with a view to potential changes.

Of course, sometimes feeling life is not worth living can be clinical depression and medical treatment, such as antidepressants can help. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be about the examination of underlying beliefs and patterns of behaviour and habits, as well as about identification of specific goals and actions for making changes.

The comparison between Socrates and Jesus is interesting because it seems that they both had a quest which seemed to lead them to renounce themselves. It seems that they were trying to follow what they believed to be the 'truth' to the end. I am not sure how many people would come from that perspective. I wonder how much a person's belief in life after death affects a willingness to die for beliefs.

Generally, most people seem to cling to life and I wonder if people who go to war think of this. The worrying aspect which I see is that, apparently, terrorists, who usually die in their actions, believe that they will be rewarded in heaven. However, I am not trying to compare Jesus and Socrates to them. The seeking of Socrates and Jesus can be seen as one of authenticity, and it may be that authenticity and 'truth' are essential, although there are likely to be large differences in what constitutes these. For example, a different position was reached by Jean Paul Sartre, but he was exploring authenticity and pointing to falsity, especially in his description of a life of 'bad faith'. Similarly, Nietzsche's philosophy was about going beyond the hollowness of convention as in the journey of Zarazuthra.
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JackDaydream
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

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Tegularius wrote: May 27th, 2022, 3:21 pm One examines one's life best by its consequences not by any psychoanalytic mumbo jumbo, especially when practiced on oneself. Knowing oneself in the Socratic sense is highly overrated and usually leads to no conclusion or the wrong one. It amounts to nothing more than a self-image based on a hypothesis that everything which amalgamates to create a person can be known. The only thing possible to know is the skin, far less what lies underneath.
It is true that consequences of belief are important. It is possible to spend too much time looking within. But, the importance of reflection may be important. It doesn't have to be psychotherapy. Some find therapy useful whereas others don't and finding the right therapist can be part of the issue. I have had some therapy myself and have done some therapy training. However, I have mixed feelings about therapy and didn't finish my training. I do find philosophy extremely important in thinking, but I find searching within as well as critical examination of ideas and outer aspects of life to be both important. In other words, self knowledge is important, but not in isolation from thinking about the outer world as well.
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Sy Borg »

I have always felt that it was important to lead an examined life but, as a reflexive navel-gazer, I would think that, wouldn't I?

Being on the spectrum, there appear to me to be millions, maybe billions, of people who seem more functional in their society than I am, and many of them don't seem to bother with the great questions, let alone questioning themselves. Those to seem to do best in life - whose funerals are most keenly attended - seem to commit to something, be it a cause, a grand project, a field of learning, a family, a religion.
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Tegularius »

I think there are in the main two types of questions to which there cannot be any response. The first type (of which philosophy forums are most familiar) relates to meaning, value and purpose interminably discussed as given by virtue of being human. It's of a genre completely devoid of ever eliciting a response beyond what imagination and wishful thinking provides; because it doesn't provide for anything useful it remains useless, a morbid symptom of a skewed subjectivity forever pondering itself.

The 2nd type is much more potent in being rhetorical. It doesn't expect a response which finalizes a question. It remains forever open as an element of awareness causing thought to move forward, the question(s) themselves being its dynamic more powerful than any possible resolution.

Perhaps that's what Goethe meant in the final line of Faust...

Das Ewig Weibliche Zieht Uns Hinan

...if mystery were regarded as a feminine force in the psyche never thoroughly inclusive though perennially gravitating toward it.
The earth has a skin and that skin has diseases; one of its diseases is called man ... Nietzsche
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by chewybrian »

Tegularius wrote: May 27th, 2022, 3:21 pm One examines one's life best by its consequences not by any psychoanalytic mumbo jumbo, especially when practiced on oneself. Knowing oneself in the Socratic sense is highly overrated and usually leads to no conclusion or the wrong one. It amounts to nothing more than a self-image based on a hypothesis that everything which amalgamates to create a person can be known. The only thing possible to know is the skin, far less what lies underneath.
Consequences for whom? If, for example, I live in a society which is racist, and I happen to be from the race which benefits from the system, then I would probably see benefit from conforming to the system. If I lived in the south in the U.S, in 1840, I could have become wealthy and respected by exploiting others. How else but by examining my own motives and trying to form a more objective perspective could I hope to rise above my situation and see the injustice of those choices?

We are all subject to all manner of cognitive biases, and our political and economic systems often reinforce these, such that we will only get worse if we never examine our own motives and try to see objective truth as as far as we are able. The philosopher has a duty to see beyond the reinforcement provided by the outside world and judge his own actions and the actions of others to be just or not without the beer goggles of customs and traditions and religion and such.
If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things. Don't wish to be thought to know anything; and even if you appear to be somebody important to others, distrust yourself. For, it is difficult to both keep your faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature, and at the same time acquire external things. But while you are careful about the one, you must of necessity neglect the other., Epictetus, "The Enchiridion"
You seem to be lumping all psychology and self-help under the heading of "psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo". Certainly there is plenty of nonsense out there pretending to be psychology, including perhaps psychoanalysis as compared to psychotherapy. Just as clearly, there is great value in things like cognitive behavioral therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous. These activities often take place with others, and the interaction is valuable, but I would not discount the necessity and value of self-discovery and self-help.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Ecurb »

Sy Borg wrote: May 28th, 2022, 9:08 pm I have always felt that it was important to lead an examined life but, as a reflexive navel-gazer, I would think that, wouldn't I?

Being on the spectrum, there appear to me to be millions, maybe billions, of people who seem more functional in their society than I am, and many of them don't seem to bother with the great questions, let alone questioning themselves. Those to seem to do best in life - whose funerals are most keenly attended - seem to commit to something, be it a cause, a grand project, a field of learning, a family, a religion.
What are the "great questions"? Are they answered by examining one's own life., or by looking outward, at the world, or at the lives of others? Those attending the funeral, at least, are contemplating the life of the deceased, rather than their own. Perhaps they are attending because he was just as interested in them as he was in himself.
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by Ecurb »

chewybrian wrote: May 29th, 2022, 6:25 am

Consequences for whom? If, for example, I live in a society which is racist, and I happen to be from the race which benefits from the system, then I would probably see benefit from conforming to the system. If I lived in the south in the U.S, in 1840, I could have become wealthy and respected by exploiting others. How else but by examining my own motives and trying to form a more objective perspective could I hope to rise above my situation and see the injustice of those choices?

We are all subject to all manner of cognitive biases, and our political and economic systems often reinforce these, such that we will only get worse if we never examine our own motives and try to see objective truth as as far as we are able. The philosopher has a duty to see beyond the reinforcement provided by the outside world and judge his own actions and the actions of others to be just or not without the beer goggles of customs and traditions and religion and such.

You seem to be lumping all psychology and self-help under the heading of "psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo". Certainly there is plenty of nonsense out there pretending to be psychology, including perhaps psychoanalysis as compared to psychotherapy. Just as clearly, there is great value in things like cognitive behavioral therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous. These activities often take place with others, and the interaction is valuable, but I would not discount the necessity and value of self-discovery and self-help.
Of course examining one's own biases and points of view is vital to seeing the world more clearly. It's also difficult. We can see the prejudices and hypocrosy of others more easily than we can see our own, because if we COULD see our own, we wouldn't maintain them. By looking outward, and recognizing the biases of other people, we may be enlightened to our own shortcomings. Looking inward sometimes reinforces our prejudices instead of eliminating them.
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Re: The Unexamined or Examined Life: How Important is This for You?

Post by JackDaydream »

Sy Borg wrote: May 28th, 2022, 9:08 pm I have always felt that it was important to lead an examined life but, as a reflexive navel-gazer, I would think that, wouldn't I?

Being on the spectrum, there appear to me to be millions, maybe billions, of people who seem more functional in their society than I am, and many of them don't seem to bother with the great questions, let alone questioning themselves. Those to seem to do best in life - whose funerals are most keenly attended - seem to commit to something, be it a cause, a grand project, a field of learning, a family, a religion.
I smiled at your reply about functionality because it is essential to coping with life, but, sometimes, overvalued as the only thing which matters. The problem with my own CV may be that the various studies and work which I have done may demonstrate my pursuit of the examined life rather than skills to be paid for. Maslow's hierarchy of needs points to the importance of the various needs, ranging from the physical and emotional ones to self- actualisation. The art may be to gravitate to the higher ones without losing the essential needs, because human life is about the needs of the body and mind. Perhaps, philosophy examination can embrace this intricate balance in understanding oneself and others in the fullest ways possible.
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