"The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This quotation is from the speech made by Socrates when on trial for his life on the charge of having corrupted the young men of Athens through his supposedly atheistic teaching. It is Socrates' contention that to harm his neighbors (i.e., to corrupt the youth of Athens) would be to harm himself, an act which no man would intentionally commit. As to his alleged atheism, he points out that no one can believe, as he does, in divine agencies without believing in the Gods. The parents of the young men whom he is supposed to have corrupted have brought no testimony against him; therefore, the knowledge of his innocence gives him courage. It has been suggested that he go to a foreign city and, once there, hold his tongue. But he rejects this advice, for it is his duty to probe into those very subjects which so irritate the Athenians:

. . . if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true. . . .