Socrates' Proposal

The other day I was working through Moreland and Craig's "Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview", when I noticed that almost everything I was reading this time around pointed back to a reference at the beginning. The reference: Socrates' famous claim that "An unexamined life is not worth living."

Now, many of us today are comfortable living a simple, pragmatic - or "practical" - life. We tend to frown on ideas like this, assuming they're a waste of our time, or, that they should only be reserved for the contemplative academic crowd. However, that isn't Socrates' point in Plato's Apology (where the quote is found). Socrates was teaching about living more fully, or completely.

So, here's my point... or, rather, question: is there room for such a practice in our lives? In other words, could this carry any weight of relevancy for us today? Sure, such an idea of introspection can seem to give the appearance of "absent-minded-professor-ness", but, is that true? Could it be that in order for us to simply live practically, we should be examining what it is we have to offer? Who it is we are. Or, what it is we are focused on. Without centering in on these things, our practicality would appear no different than an undiagnosed child with ADHD, who is just "all over the place." But, in reality, this isn't the case. I don't know too many adults who live practical lives that end up appearing so random, or unbridled in said practicality. No, I think the average person is reined in, at least to some degree.

So, what am I suggesting? That the majority of people do uphold Socrates' notion, whether intentionally or unintentionally. On one hand, you could argue that this is because of a self-absorbed innate human nature; the pride of man always leads to an examination of the self. On the other, you could argue that this is only a process of our maturation. We know we are self-centered, thus, in order to be more relevant for those around us, we ought to examine ourselves for the betterment of ourselves. Personally, I think both are true. However... I think they're both still unintentionally pondered.

So, what could intentionally pondering this offer? Could keeping this a central-practice in our daily lives lend itself to something greater for us? In other words, is an intentional centrality of such an examination really so important for our day to day lives? Again, I say yes. The examined life does require a philosophical life; it requires only a selfless one. This centrality, or intentionality promotes the person to willingly look into their self. To see what it is that needs to be pruned, and consider what needs to be nourished. It is a selfless self-absorption. A truly self-examined life is not unhappy with weakness and failure, i.e. sin. Such a would only then propagate a desire for a remedy. This is Socrates' hope.

Now, lastly, it must be considered whether or not this is enough. Is such an examination all that's needed? No. The remedy is the prize. That is the focus of such an examination. Socrates' idea of perfection, or "wholeness", was the motivation behind his claim. However, I don't believe this is possible by the combo of introspection and certitude alone because of the first "hand" mentioned above. There is always some level of pride (imperfection) in us. So, how someone with inevitable imperfection perfect itself. In case you haven't realized yet, I'm approaching all of this from a Christian paradigm, ergo, self-absorbed pride is sin. This is a contented self-absorption. Remember, I am juxtaposing this against the discontented self-absorption which looks to better the self. The former is inevitable. It is consistent with our life here on earth.

So, we need a remedy from outside the imperfectly self-absorbed self. This remedy is and will always be Jesus. His life was spent in examination. Examining who he was in relation to the Father. His examination led to the betterment of, not himself, per se, - from day one, he was selfless as a human man, living only to glorify His Father - but others. His whole self was spent bringing wholeness to the broken. This is his eternal place as the Triune God. He glorifies himself to perfect others to glorify him. Thus, through a properly examined life, we should see our weakness and shudder. It should prompt us to long for a perfection that only Perfection can bring. Upon receiving the wholeness of Christ can we then truly live. And then, yes, Socrates' misappropriated quote lends itself to us today in a very real, and practical way; the properly examined life is not only worth living, but is part of the route to fully, truly living.