Excerpts From Great Minds- What Does Socrates Mean?

excerpts from great minds- socrates“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

- Socrates

Hmmm… This quote sounds kind of harsh, right? I don’t think anyone likes to hear that they’re worthless. But, in the actual sense, I don’t think it really means that.

Personal development gurus always talk about separating time to do some self examination. The reason for this is simply to know what you’re made up of (spiritually, mentally, psychologically, etc.). I’m not talking about purpose here but just self knowledge. What do you have on the inside of you and what can you offer to the society?

Worth simply means value. You only regard something as valuable if it’s of use to you.
Take this scenario as an example:

“You were blessed with an artistic mind. You can draw, paint and even sculpt but you don’t see any importance or relevance in this gift. You only draw when there’s a pencil in your hand or paint when you see a brush and some water colour. 

Two blocks from your house, there’s a little girl who loves art but is crude in drawing and painting. One day, she stumbles on one of your works and approaches you. She wants to know how to develop this talent of hers. Being that you only use your talent as a past time activity and see it as nothing relevant, you have NO IDEA of how to help out. She returns home only to begin a whole new search for an art tutor.”

Most of us see self examination as a daunting task. From the illustration above, you can see that you don’t need to look too deep in order to find out what you have and what you can give. Most times, it’s right in front of us but we fail to see it because we don’t want to.
Our achievements in life are linked in one way or the other. Our success in a particular area is sometimes connected to the help we get from someone else. What happens when that “someone else” has nothing to offer us at the time we need it? This doesn’t mean we won’t succeed but it’ll take a little bit longer.

In my opinion, by saying “an unexamined life is not worth living”, Socrates didn’t mean “worthless” as an entity but with respect to those in your environment.  Life is only worthless if it’s of no use to you or the person by your side. We weren’t created to occupy space, so make impact, even in that little space.


What does that quote mean to you? I’d love to hear your view.

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  1. I love that quote and, to me, it means to give some thought to what we’re doing–not just go through the same motions every day with no thought as to goals, objectives, etc.
    I really need to reexamine my social media objectives this year and reprioritize because a lot of what I do seems pretty superficial and of no particular value to anyone. Great post and I’ll be back!

  2. Don’t over think this one. Socrates’ quote means to question life, ask the right questions, there is no one right answer.

  3. @Sandra McLeod Humphrey
    I love your perspective. Thanks for your comment.

  4. @Anonymous
    Hmmm… Guilty as charged.

  5. I agree with Socrates. Introspection is a very important thing. You can’t be an original without having a relationship with You first of all: defining your goals, ambitions and ambitions.

    Sometimes people are so caught up in the vicissitudes of life, they forget designating some ‘me time’.

    • @Oluchi
      Yes, you’re completely right. The first person you must understand fully well is YOU. Only after that can you realize what YOU have to offer. Thanks for your wonderful view.

  6. I think there’s a bit more to Socrates’ quote than appears on the surface. During the time of the ancient philosophers there was deep thought about what separates man from the lower animals–a thread that culminates centuries later in Descartes.

    Socrates, to me, is commenting on the ways in which man is more than just an animal, is a thinking, feeling, reflecting, sentient creature, and also that we all have a need and a responsibility, therefore to achieve spiritually and continually show that we are special creatures.

    • @Michael
      There’s truly more to Socrates quote than what meets the eye. Since we were created better than animals, then we should behave like one by showing it.

  7. I agree with Sandra. Self-reflection is good.

    If we don’t stop and think about WHY we’re doing what we’re doing, we don’t open the door to improvement, expansion or greater knowledge.

    Great post as always, Lanre. I look forward to the next one.


    • @wizardofwords
      I agree with you both. Sometimes, we fail to open doors just because we don’t know what’s behind them. This only happens if we’re not prepared for the unknown, the future. Thanks for your view and I’m glad you look forward to the next one.

  8. Hi! Lanre,

    Nice double-edged post.

    To really put across my opinion on Socrates quote, I’d say the quote is divided into two sections.

    You talk about an “unexamined life” and “not worth living” (I think this is the first time I’m seeing this quote).

    An “unexamined life” is what you rightly defined in your post and to spice it up a bit, an unexamined life is a life of liability and not that of an asset.

    For someone’s life to be classified as “not worth living” simply means the person has nothing to offer. It’s just like you wanting to learn from people but you can’t teach them even in a little way; you wanting to receive but you can’t give and stuff like that.

    I really love your example about drawing and artistry. The real reason behind this is that our present society places certificate far above natural gifts. If it weren’t so, you’ll see more people coming to terms with their gifts. Not to push the blame solely on the educational sector, some individuals are just too lazy to use their gifts.


    • I love your view, Chukwuka and I agree with you. Some of us are just too lazy to come to terms with our gifts and what we have to offer. The educational system has caused a shift from us offering not our gifts anymore, but our skills.
      Thanks for your comment.

  9. I love your line that “we weren’t created to occupy space.” Self-reflection is good, but not as an excuse to postpone action until we’ve got life totally figured out. That’s not going to happen. Trust your judgment and move forward with the things you’re passionate about.

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