What DOES Make Life Worth Living?
Although Socrates’ case is an extreme example, it is basically teaching us a seemingly elementary lesson with surprisingly complex applications: it is not always easy to do what is right. The concept seems simple, yet the brutal truth is that those of us who live in the most virtuous ways are often presented with the worst of struggles. In regards to drawing a deeper meaning from Socrates’ story that is applicable to our own lives, I believe we need to take a step back and look at the situation as a whole.
I can’t be certain, but I believe it isn’t too far fetched to state that most of us wouldn’t want Socrates defending us in a court of law. So Socrates isn’t the best at making arguments. Alright, that’s obvious. However, we shouldn’t look too deep into the arguments that he makes, because technically we cannot even prove that there is validity in any of it. Let’s not forget that Socrates never actually wrote anything down, and during Socrates’ discussion with Crito, the author of the text, Plato, wasn’t even present. Anything and everything is a second hand account. Instead, we should be concentrating on the more generalized, accurate history of Socrates as a person.
Socrates was a man with strong values, and a passionate pursuit for the truth and true knowledge, who continued to honor his virtuous principles – even when it meant dying in standing by them. But why would anyone die for what they hold to be true? This is easily answered by another question. If we are not living for what we believe in, what are we living for? To renounce your beliefs, your religion, your passion, is to renounce your very existence, for these are the things we are made of. In order to lead a meaningful, good life, we must live by the principles we ourselves know to be true. If we believe that the public life is the good life, and we must go along with the masses in order to find true happiness, we must do it. If we believe in living for the search of knowledge, we must find it. If we cannot pursue our own truths, our place in this world is essentially meaningless. It may seem ridiculous to some, but for Socrates, leaving his imprisonment would have compromised his entire logic, and therein his entire reason for living. It may be difficult for us to understand, but it’s the principle of it that should concern us. So long as we live our lives by our own moral and ethical standards, are we not creating a meaningful existence in living by what we know to be true? And if we aren’t living for our own beliefs, who and what are we living for?
True, Socrates teaches us how not to produce a legitimate argument that is convincing and structured. However, his situation can be applied to our own place in modern society in that it makes us question the motives behind the roles we play in life. At least on some level, we should question ourselves the way Socrates might have, as opposed to blindly assuming that how we are living is really true to ourselves. Do we really agree with the representatives, the leaders we are electing into office? Are we following our true beliefs? Is the path we follow an existentially sound, righteous one? Are we, in fact, holding true to our moral principles, to the philosophical fabric of our beings? And if we are not – what exactly are we compromising?