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Plato famously quotes Socrates as saying that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Clearly, then, there is a strand of philosophical thinking that holds that there are advantages to examining our beliefs. However, as the death of Socrates can also tell us, many people think that holding to beliefs without examining them is more comforting and secure.
Examining our beliefs is valuable because it forces us to really think about those beliefs. When we do this, we come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the things in which we believe. If we reject our earlier beliefs, we improve ourselves because we have gotten rid of things that truly did not stand up under scrutiny. If we keep on believing what we used to believe, we have still improved ourselves because we have truly confirmed our beliefs and have come to better understand why we believe what we do.
However, there are many people who would rather not examine their beliefs. These people, like the Athenians who became angry at Socrates, do not want to challenge themselves. They want to remain comfortable and secure. This is completely understandable since unexamined beliefs feel more certain. People who do not examine their beliefs never have to feel doubt. Doubt is an unpleasant feeling and these people gain an advantage by not having to endure that feeling.
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