Socrates examines his life in Plato’s The Apology and whether or not it is worth living if he cannot do what he believes is his life mission, practicing philosophy. Now, is an unexamined life worth living, a bad life, or can we buy the good life with our money, and our power? Socrates explains what a virtuous life entails in comparison to a non- virtuous life and are both lives ok to have, or in the end is the virtuous life that Socrates talks about the only way to life with no regret when faced with death at the end of your life?
I agree with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I claim that Ivan llych’s ife in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych exemplifies Socrates position of a non-virtuous life, because I believe Ivan died realizing he is leaving the world behind with no legacy to be remembered, other than his money being passed to family. Socrates throughout the Apology provides different examples and reasons as to why he is living a good and virtuous life.
Socrates at this point had just shared the Achilles analogy with the court, and how Achilles was faced with death if he killed Hector, but Achilles chose to stand and do what he thought he should regardless of the imminent death that awaited him. Now Socrates addresses the court about himself and his relationship with god, “But if, when the god stationed me here, as I became thoroughly convinced he did, to live practicing philosophy, examining myself and others, I had-for fear of death or anything else-abandoned my station” (28e).
Socrates depicts to the court with this that, first off he believes in the gods, so therefore the charge against him is blasphemous. Second though, is that the gods put him on earth to live his life in a certain way, which is to practice philosophy no matter what the consequences, and if he topped, then he would have betrayed and disobeyed the god. This matters because it shows that Socrates is living a good and virtuous life through examining life and questioning what’s around him.
Socrates, through his practice of philosophy, doesn’t accept things for what they are, he digs deeper, and tries to prove to the people in powerful positions that there view is wrong, and that they are not actually an expert at whatever it may be that the thought they were. He is even doing so in this example, because they said he doesn’t believe in the gods, but he is telling them the gods put him on earth to practice hilosophy. Unlike Socrates, Ivan lives a very typical life.
Socrates is an outsider of the society in which he lives in, and people in power do not like being questioned and harassed by him, while Ivan is that rich, powerful person that just follows the societal norms, by getting a well-paying job and living lavishly, but not gaining any knowledge or anything more virtuous, because Ivan lived the life Socrates warns about, the unexamined life. In comparison to Socrates, Ivan lived a very normal life. He never wavered or went outside the typical life of his society round him, and Tolstoy himself tells us that Ivan Ilych lived a bad life. Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible” (795).
Ivan lived the life of the “perfect” person in the perspective of people in our daily lives. He followed the plan from start to finish, he went to school, graduated, got a job, find a wife, had some kids, and continued his job and bought nice things with his money until he died. But is that a life to live, or is that a bad life? Now Tolstoy believes Ivan did live a bad life, with his argumentative tatement, he does leave out the conclusion of the argument to let you fill in the blank with what you believe.
Ivan’s life is shameful; he didn’t examine anything or ask questions, or care about anything other than making money and developing meaningless relationships. Ivan is greedy, just like everyone else trying to just make money and get power in this world, but the thing with that is, is that you can never have enough, there is always room for more, and your wants cannot be satisfied. Ivan’s life was in contrast completely different from the way Socrates lived.
Socrates focused on knowledge and wanted to make an impact and teach others to question life, while Ivan went about his business not caring about anyone about himself. Ivan portrays the life that Socrates warns about, the unexamined life. In addition to Socrates believing that the gods put him on earth for the purpose of practicing philosophy, he like Achilles, would die for believing in what he is doing is right. The court just offered him the plea deal, to walk away and not teach philosophy again and he can live, otherwise it will be death, and Socrates responds to this plea deal.
Well, as I just said, if you were to let me go on these terms, I’d reply to you, I’ve the upmost respect and affection for you, men of Athens, but l’l obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I won’t give up practicing philosophy” (29d). Socrates explains to the court that he won’t accept that deal, and would rather die than not be able to practice philosophy, and he is very content with his answer. Socrates fears not death, but living a life in which he can’t practice philosophy, a life with no meaning, no goal or mission, an unexamined life.
This unexamined life is a bad life, you should be able to learn about life, and understand things for why not just because some “expert” told you that it was a certain way just because. The life that Socrates lives is virtuous, he is more about gaining knowledge than gaining money and power. He also cares more about his relationships, relationships in which both he and the people he connects with make a difference on each other, and they are not just meaningless. Socrates believes what he does so much, that he would die for it, rather than live without it.
Furthermore, this llustrates that Ivan lived the exact life that Socrates feared, a bad life. A life that there was no impact, no lasting impression from you living. Socrates left a legacy band unanswered questions when he died, and actually proved a final point with his death, whereas Ivan left the world leaving only behind his money. Some may believe that Ivan did indeed live a good, prosperous life, and that at the end of his life he triumphed in the realization that he lived a not so good life, an unexamined life. Now, I do agree with those people’s analysis, but I believe that you must look at the life as a whole.
I don’t think this is a situation where it can be a “not how you started but how you finished”. For the majority of Ivan’s life, he lived in the dark, he didn’t see the light. Ivan went along with life as if everything was perfect, even though he had admitted that his life wasn’t getting any better and he wasn’t becoming any happier. Ivan’s life cannot be looked at as a good life because he lived an unexamined life, up until the point of his death, and only when faced with his death, did he realize he had lived a terrible life. To conclude, Ivan lived out exactly what Socrates’ feared an unexamined life.