Socrates Meaning Of Life

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In Western philosophy, the question surrounding the meaning of life has become a subject of discussion and debate. In recent decades, philosophers have demonstrated a significant amount of interest in unraveling the identity of the factors that make life meaningful. Susan Wolf is one such philosopher accredited for widening the scope on the discussion about the meaningfulness of life in her essay titled “The Meanings of Lives. ” In her perspective, Wolf argues that all meaningful lives are characterized by the elements of subjectivity and objectivity.

In addition, Wolf maintains that the aforementioned elements make lives meaningful when available together. This paper discusses the element of objectivity, which according to Wolf, refers to the successful engagement in projects that add value or are identifiable with positive value. Consequently, this paper examines the extent to which Socrates’ life fulfils the conditions of meaningful life as espoused by Wolf. In developing its argumentative basis, the paper refers extensively to the Apology and the Crito, thus determining whether or not Wolf’s criteria are sufficient in determining the meaningfulness of life. ​The nature of meaningfulness according to Wolf is found in something a person finds fulfilling (Wolf 14). This viewpoint is integral in understanding the motivating factors that determine the decisions by people on the things to do and the manner of making their decisions. On the objectivity element, Wolf contends that for one’s life to be meaningful, the activities and projects undertaken by the person must be worthwhile. These projects and activities, therefore, are those defined by their positive value. ​To many, Socrates is considered among the wisest men in ancient Greece. Despite being condemned, the spoken words by Socrates are still followed, listened to and quoted today. When examining the meaningfulness of Socrates’ life, the statement by Socrates “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato, 45) plays a critical role. Many scholars have attempted to understand what the statement by Socrates meant, and what drove him to conclude that life is only worth living when it is examined. ​The Apology and the Crito are Plato’s documentations of Socrates’ conversations with others.

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The Apology is among the first dialogues authored by Plato. In Apology, Plato presents the argument by Socrates before the court, detailing his defense against claims of breaking the Athenian law by corrupting the youth and worshipping gods that are different from the gods worshipped by everyone else. In this speech, Socrates argues that he is not an atheist and that he has not corrupted any youth compared to other Athenian citizens. Socrates says, “Men of Athens, I have the highest regard and affection for you, but I will obey god rather than you…. Either acquit me, or don’t, knowing that I will not behave differently even if I am to be put to death a thousand times over,” (Plato 29). In his wisdom, Socrates argues that his practice of philosophy made him guilty. Therefore, he puts it before the court that he would not stop doing philosophy, leaving it for the jury to determine whether to put him to death or acquit him. ​Mapping the account of the speech onto the distinction of meaningful life as set by Wolf, it emerges that Socrates led a meaningful life, which was distinguished by both subjectivity and objectivity.

The Apology depicts the belief that Socrates held towards what made life whole. In this speech, Socrates depicts spiritual and mental growth as the main purposes of his life. Socrates emphasized the need for the Athenians and the youth to explore and understand the world that was around them. This was the main project that defined the life of Socrates, as portrayed in the Apology. Socrates engaged in a project that was aimed at ensuring that people had a deeper understanding of themselves. Besides, Socrates emphasized on being a good citizen, which was characterized by doing the right thing. ​The Crito is a documentation of the conversation between Socrates and Crito, his wealthy friend. This dialogue, written by Plato, focuses of three main issues, including justice, injustice and the response deemed appropriate to injustice. The Crito suggests that Socrates held the philosophy that the citizens have the cardinal duty to obey the laws of the state. Socrates argues that people make an implicit agreement to follow the laws of a state once they decide to live in it (Plato 53). Besides, Socrates contends that breaking the law is equivalent to the destruction of the Athenian principles, thus a person breaking the law is unjust and attracts warranted harm for breaking the law. Socrates further explains in the Crito that people have the duty to obey the state, as this the condition for the reciprocity of benefits. ​Looking at the Crito, it is evident that the agenda by Socrates is to convince Crito that every moral citizen has a duty to follow the law. Socrates, therefore, cannot escape from jail because it is against the law. In this context, Socrates is living a meaningful live, whose positive value is to promote the commitment to obedience of the law among the citizens. Socrates has to choose death over an escape from prison, which he chooses the former. Obedience to the law is a positive value that defines the life of Socrates, given that he chose to live in Athens and had the moral obligation to abide by all the laws of the land.

The objective element of evaluating the meaningfulness of life as coined by Wolf demands that an individual promotes and demonstrates certain positive and objective values during the course of life. Consequently, there are certain reasons why people should take part in projects and activities, most of these reasons being the desire to succeed and obtain positive outcomes (Wolf 31). Therefore, a meaningful life should envision the positive values that are emphasized by Wolf. Consequently, this paper asserts that Wolf’s criteria are adequate standards for determining a life’s meaningfulness.

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