What are the positives and negatives of the examined and unexamined life, according to Socrates?

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For Socrates, the examined life, the life of the philosopher, is the best kind of life there is. It is only by examining life, by subjecting it to rational investigation, that one can hope to attain some measure of wisdom.

Socrates regards the question of how we should live to be the most important, and this question forms the basis of the various dialogues in which he participates, as presented to us by Plato and Xenophon. Socrates believed that it was only possible to live the good life if one actually knew what it was. By the same token, no one would knowingly act badly; if someone did act badly it was due to ignorance, to a lack of knowledge of what was good. The examined life, then, is essential for giving us an understanding of what is good and what is bad.

The negative side of the examined life can be seen in the fate meted out to Socrates by the citizens of Athens. Tried and convicted on various charges such as corrupting the city's youth and encouraging the worship of false gods,...

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on November 8, 2019