In ancient Athens, nearly two and a half millennia ago, a wise and enigmatic figure named Socrates walked the streets, engaging in conversations with the citizens. He became notorious for his provocative questions and relentless pursuit of truth. Yet, his insatiable curiosity and unorthodox beliefs ultimately led him to a tragic end. Accused of corrupting the minds of the youth and failing to show sufficient reverence for the Gods, Socrates was condemned to die by poisoning.
Ironically, these very charges could still land one in a world of trouble today.
Plato’s Apology recounts the story of Socrates defending himself against these accusations, ultimately failing to persuade the jury of his innocence. Faced with the option to flee into exile, Socrates chose death instead. Just before he was condemned, he uttered the immortal words: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” For Socrates, a life devoid of philosophy, inquiry, and self-reflection was a fate worse than death itself.
A truly fulfilling life, according to Socrates, is one spent in a state of wonder and curiosity, constantly pondering, reflecting, and challenging both our own and other people’s beliefs. It involves seeking answers to the profound questions that have captivated the human mind since time immemorial:
- How should we live?
- How should we act?
- What is justice?
- What is beauty?
- Is God real?
- Is human existence meaningful?
These timeless inquiries lie at the very heart of philosophy.
Today, we find ourselves in a hyper-connected, frenetic world, bombarded by 5-second adverts, scrolling news feeds, 500-channel IP TVs, and the relentless hum of smartphones. It seems that now, more than ever, we are at risk of succumbing to a shallow existence, only half-lived. In these tumultuous times, we are in dire need of moments to pause, reflect, and reconnect with our inner selves. Philosophy, with its emphasis on introspection and contemplation, might just be the perfect antidote to the chaos of modern life.
By studying philosophy, we learn to “stop and smell the flowers,” or rather, to stop and appreciate life in its entirety. Through philosophical inquiry, we can discover the essence of a life worth living, and perhaps, find our own unique path towards a richer, more meaningful existence.