Discuss the meaning of the quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living" with reference to Platonic ideas.  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Plato's quote refers to the idea of thorough reflection and examination are important elements to one's being in the world.  For Plato, the "unexamined life is not worth living" is an extension of his Allegory of the Cave.  In this, a group of men are chained to one another inside a cave and must live with what they consider reality, the drawings on the cave wall.  One of the cave- dwellers is able, though, to see some light from the outside creeping in and they follow the light to its source, a world outside the cave. Here the cave- dweller sees plant and flowers, sun and sky and they understand what is there.  They recognize this as the true reality. When they go back inside the cave and tell the others, the cave- dweller who has now seen life outside the cave is shunned and rejected as the others discard what he sees as reality and see their own vision of consciousness as the only reality.  It is here where Plato's quote has meaning and relevance.  For individuals who wish to have a life worthy of living, Plato believes that human beings must strive to live outside the cave, and to experience reality that transcends our current state of being.  This striving and examination sets our lives apart from those who don't.  It makes the truly unique individual truly unique.  Other might not "get it," but this is where the examined life holds its own intrinsic value.  It is also where others live the unexamined life, one that Plato believes is "not worth living,"