Sunday, September 6, 2015

Against the over-examined life

Reportedly Socrates tells us the unexamined life is not worth living. Aside from the drastic and uncompromising tone, one can easily understand the sentiment, and it has been widely endorsed. Critical self-reflection is to be admired. 

Ok, I agree, sort of. And so does Jewish tradition. Jews are exhorted once a year to take stock of their lives; for ten days to turn their attention to unflinching self-examination, to face up to their own mortality and to rededicate themselves to resist destructive temptations and follow the right path, ending the period with a 24 hour long fast - which makes me appreciate the abundance of nutrition in my life. I will play. 

It occurs to me, however, that many of my cerebral friends and colleagues are in a continual, almost obsessive, state of close self-examination (I include myself). There is an unavoidable element of self-absorption (narcissism) involved. Accordingly I would like to put in a plug against the ‘over-examined life’. There is something to be said for living the way most people do, one day at a time, in the moment, and not to get too hung upon analyzing each and every minute. What would Aristotle say? With this, as with all things, everything in moderation.

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