[Solved] What do each of the following quotations mean to you?
(a) “An unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates ( UPSC GS-4 Mains 2019)
An unexamined life : Socrates was a Greek moral philosopher and a proponent of virtue ethics. In his times, philosophers normally agreed that knowledge is something that brings virtue to person. Being virtuous was end in itself for some and a means to good life for others. Hence, examination of your life, its ends, its meaning, raising questions like what is a life worth living etc. were necessary to find problems with and limitations of present state of living.
For me, it means that simply living i.e. following gives goals of life through already chartered paths is not a good way to live and shrinks the canvas of life. Each one of us should sometime in our lives must question the things around us, the norms that we live under, the goals that we are made to chase as adult members of a cultural community, the roles we are expected to engage in etc. One must
fundamentally doubt everything at least theoretically not to disrupt everything but to get clarity about what is good and what is bad in what one does normally. It makes us authentic and helps us realize our true selves. It creates originality in our being. This makes our lives truly ours. It doesn’t reduce us to a cog in the wheel of large societal necessities. Basically, this examination is a quest to become a free individual where grammar of one’s life is based on conscious, free choices one makes.
An unexamined human life, is deprived of the meaning and purpose of existence. The ability to introspect removes the individualistic absurdity by invoking a commitment to moral integrity and social solidarity.
Just like a seed needs soil, sunlight and water for its germination, human life needs introspection and examination for its growth. An understanding of the experiences gained in the life at any particular time, enriches one’s engagement with self and the universe.
Mahatma Gandhi’s examination of self through his autobiography ‘My experiments with truth’ highlights the significance of reflection on life. Mahatma Gandhi was not only able to map his weaknesses and vulnerabilities through the examination, but was also able to question his prejudices and understand his strength as a human being.
This very ability to reflect on life adds more depth to the character of ‘Arjun’ in Mahabharat than most of the other characters like Bheeshm, Yudhishthir or the Kauravs. Instead of following the norms and fighting with his clan, Arjun questions the meaninglessness of the war and the purpose of his life.
The fast changing societies and consumerist culture in the contemporary world leave less time for human beings to examine and think about the changes. Adaptation to changes have become automatic and unquestionable.
The quotation has strong relevance in the present times where human beings are burdened with the histories of war, colonisation, nationalisation, erosion of morality in the scientific and technological advancements and the sense of spiritual uprootedness.
It is in these times that one needs to delve deeper into the conscience to find the purpose of existence and engage in a more meaningful manner with the society.
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