Saturday, August 9, 2014

Favorite Quotes from Socrates: An Examined Life

I recently reread this quote by Socrates, Greek philosopher and teacher of Plato. It's one of my all-time favorites:

“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

In my life I've tried to surround myself with people who question things and are serious about improving "who they are." Still, I know more than a few people who live unexamined lives, who are willing consumers of whatever the culture dishes up.

Marble bust of Socrates - Louvre
While we think of Socrates as one of the great minds of human history, in his own time only his students and a few close friends appreciated his wisdom. Those in power in Athens resented his unconventional views and his sarcasm. Ultimately, he was found guilty of impiety and corrupting the youth and was sentenced to death. His friends believed they could free him, but Socrates refused. His rationale is revealing:
  • He believed escaping would indicate that he was afraid of death, and he believed that a philosopher should not be.
  • He felt there was no profit in escaping. He would be seen as an iconoclast and provoke the wrath of authorities wherever he went.
  • As a citizen of Athens, he had agreed to accept the city's laws. He felt that violating this social contract would be an unprincipled act.
  • If he let his friends help him escape, he would be putting them in danger of punishment.
Besides, he felt he was ready to die. He had had enough of the world.

I wonder if someday I'll feel that I've "had enough of the world." It's certainly a troubled world, nearly as primitive as the one Socrates lived in. But I'm not there yet.

A few more of my favorite quotes from Socrates:

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."

"The perfect human being is all human beings put together, it is a collective, it is all of us together that make perfection.

"Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue - to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.”

"Know thyself."

"Let him that would move the world first move himself.”

"In life, there is only one good--knowledge. One evil--ignorance.”

"Wisdom begins in wonder."

Words spoken 2,500 years ago, still fresh and appropriate today.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2014. Building Personal Strength .

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