|Posted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 5:37 pm Post subject: The Compulsion of Challenging a Loved Slogan
|Is it possible that the murder happen underneath the sun, ‘To live, and this means to see the light of the sun.’
The public opinion is different than the truth. An old story—indeed! The thing that is commonly held is that they say: The unexamined life is not worth living. Who are “they”? The Greeks, Socrates in extremis in the Apology of Plato, the philosophers, whatever you call them. It scarcely impresses us to say that this is a translation—but of course! This fact does not indicate any inner malice on the part of the sleepy professors who constantly rehearse this slogan. There is no harm meant by this disguise, on the contrary, it is necessary. Perhaps at the end of time they will let it go. Ergo: they might admit that its essence has not revealed itself to them, the holders of this line of text:
ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ (ho de anexetastos bios ou biôtos anthrôpôi)
“the a-inquiring (ἀνεξέταστος) life (βίος) [is] no life (οὐ βιωτὸς) [of] humans (anthropoi)”
Benjamin Jowett, a man of surpassing style. This ‘worth living’ seems to be his beautiful and suggestive creation. The exetastos or inquiring, points to the activity of Socrates (who is not that animal or brute a-inquiring life). The word worth is nowhere present in the line of Greek. Worth is rather suddenly introduced under the assumption that the statement refers to the question of Hamlet. That suicide is taken as the ingredient which triggers the reflection on the worth of the life restricted from its proper activity. The life, that of Socrates, under these conditions, the requirement to renounce his life’s work, chooses suicide. Such an artificial analysis could only appeal to a floating world, where every passion is an argument, and the lie has ceased to hold its character.
On the other hand what does the public mean when it says: The unexamined life is not worth living? That philosophers are reflective, that men of action are thoughtless, that a man of principle is superior to a mere fool or a man of no moral sense, or that philosophy is fundamentally disposed towards abstract contemplations, and that we here, with this slogan, make that activity respectable? Philosophy then takes on a contemplative and flighty character, at best involving some ethical reflections on the right way to live one’s life.
What does, the life that does not inquire is no human life, mean? It is first of all a definition. But not in the sense that a definition is a rule. Rather it serves to disclose the nature of the human being. Life, as a kind, then, in formal indication, finds its specific difference in its inquiring nature, that of the human being. This inquiring points to the work of Socrates throughout his life. Thus there is a vague circle, the word refers to the life and the life to the word.
Examination as a scrutinizing is a kind of emergence of science which involves the withdrawal from the life of the public, of they who sleep. The withdrawal from the slumber longs, in the person of Socrates, to return to the full life of the city. Then the period of isolation which marks the liberation of the animal form captivation must inquire and not only examine. I choose these words only for the reason that history as destiny has a certain connection to the word inquiry. Whereas the slogan about the worth-while life uses the word examine. The self understanding begins to take on a solipsistic and finally an utterly empty sense, know thyself retreats into the very dark country beyond the consciousness never to return.
This definition, the life without inquiry is no human life, takes hold of the human. Here we are in the interpretation of the human that is the only one to rival: there is nothing without reason, the principle of sufficient reason. The former definition, which, as it is no mere rule, we might call a principal, publicly defends the human as human, against the empty causal certainty of the principle of ratio.
The white sun melts in the bright sky and dissipates. Ratio terminates itself in its own reflections, and casualty has no ground. There is, eg, no first domino at the head of the causal chain. The very technological plateau, in its expansion, finds itself without ground. It succeeds under the aspect of the inquiry. The inquiry can not be taken to be merely formal, like that of a rule, but neither does it hold to a list of the observed things taken to have an abstract truth which holds forever and doesn't ever seek more adequate treatment: thus the principle draws towards the opening of other principles, and it acts like a conducting truth. Whatever is known is always elaborated by some vague locomotive. Even this worthy slogan, which for the longest time has appealed to the many, alas, in its superficial ethical character (ever diverting from that full philosophy) , much to the expense of what genuinely matters during one’s stay on the earth.