The Examimed LIfe

Thinking about life is more like mulling it over, and the more complete understanding this brings does not feel like crossing a finishing line while still managing to hold onto the baton,it feel like growing up more. Philosophical  meditations about life present a portrait, not a theory. The portrait may be made of theoretical pieces, questions, distinctions, explanations.

Why isn’t happiness the only thing that matters?  Are Eastern doctrines of enlightenment valid? Why am I so much like my father, can I change? What is wrong when a person cares mainly about personal wealth and power? What is wisdom and why do philosophers love it so?  Am I on a path to Truth? Are some existing things more real than others, and can we ourselves also become more real?  All these bits of theory constitute a portrait.

The understanding gained in examining a life itself comes to permeate the life and direct its course. To live an examined life is to make a self-portrait.  When additional and distinctive component such as reflection is added to our skills it is like adding new data to be fit to a curve, a new overall pattern than results.  The old components too then get seen and understood differently, just as previous scientific data points are now seen a fitting a new curve or equation.

The author’s voice is never our own, exactly the author’s life is never our own.  Still we can gain from their insights, wondering and pondering in their light. Thoreau’s Walden and Nietzsche’s writings, for example invite  or urge us to think along with them, branching in our own directions.  We are not identical with the books we read, but neither would we be the same without them!

Socrates stated the unexamined life if not worth living, this seems a bit harsh. But when we guide our live by our own pondered thoughts, if then is our life that we are living, not someone else’s. An examination of life utilizes whatever you can bring to bear and shapes you fully.

The philosophical traditions since Plat has sought to establish ethics by showing that our own well-being is served or enhanced by behaving ethically.  We do not want to get committed to any one particular understanding and get locked into it. This danger looms large for in the public’s mind or in our own they can easily become identified with a particular “position.”  Once having pigeonholed people and figured out what they are saying, we don not welcome new information that would require us to re-understand and reclassify them, and we resent  their forcing us to devote fresh energy to this when we have expended  more than enough in their direction already.

In our culture at this time in history, we are so prone to look on the outward appearance of other and do exactly at mentioned above – pigeonhole people, places and things without a second thought. And unfortunately if we just take but a moment and reflect we just might discover a richness that we had so quickly  looked  over.

Once upon a time, philosophy promised more than simply contents of thought. “Citizens of Athens,” Socrates asked, ‘aren’t you ashamed to care so much more about making all the money you can and advancing your reputation and prestige, while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your souls you have no thought or care?”  He spoke of the state of their souls , and he showed us the state of his own!

The Examined Life

by: Robert Nozick

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