What Socrates Meant by the Examined Life

When Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living” he was not recommending a life spent in endless naval-gazing, the practice of complacent self-absorption. He meant something far more rigorous. Pertaining to our day to day lives, he was telling us that philosophy is a lifelong dedication to accurate analysis and sound critical thinking about what life is and all that it means. Regarding our inner lives, we interpret his words as a call to honest introspection and an indication of the rich rewards that flow from the practice.

The Socrates Bust in the Vatican

When Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living” he was challenging us to a lifetime of rigorous introspection. (Photo: Wikimedia)

This raises an important question. What is the difference between introspection and self-absorption?

Rumination as a (Possibly Bad) Habit

I am an introvert. Like all introverts, rumination is a way of life for me. Across many years, I was a conscious believer in the act of rumination, which I will define as the fine art of sitting and doing nothing while letting the mind idly wander or perhaps ponder, often somewhat obsessively, some event of the day. What I randomly mulled over might include an anxiety-inducing blunder I had made, something someone had said that seemed to have important overtones, or more happily, my creative writing or a new philosophical idea.

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