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It is perhaps the most famous of all Socratic quotes. As one reads thought Plato’s “Apology” which writes out Socrates’ defense of himself at his famous trial in Athens, one comes across what Henry Cary translates as “…[B]ut the life without investigation, is not worth living in”. It is more often translated as “the unexamined life is not worth living”. It represents perhaps the single founding principle of what I’m attempting to do with my writing, to set out to examine my life and its values, principles and obstacles, in the hope of coming to a better understanding.

It is fitting that if I am to recourse to basics, then the first object of such an analysis ought to be the principle that I have just stated encapsulates what it achieves. It represents an interesting duality, because I’m not entirely sure you can judge a base axiom, a fundamental starting position, against itself. It also seems wrong though that an axiom and the very thing that it requires you to do are self-contradicting. An axiom that exhorts one to inquiry, cannot itself be accepted uncritically and quietly.

It brings a difficult question of how one goes about assessing this against any other metric or any other standard. I confess that I too have no idea what to do, but it seems to be a good starting point somehow, self substantiating for some odd reason, itself encouraging me to go ahead with its proposed course. I suspect that is because it appeals to further lower axioms. I do believe that the world makes sense, that with perfect knowledge one would understand that all things have a reason to be, that the circumstances that cause their occurrence are not random, not chance but in a cosmic way pre-determined.

This causes a conflict within me, because I do not believe that life is like this itself, and especially that free will and the conscious mind are not evolutionary tricks, or a good way for genes to propagate but an end and the goal in and of itself. Our genes are the way they are because they needed to be that way to create a sentient creature. I understand that the traditional interpretation of others such as Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” works the other way, with the gene being the dominant unit of selection, but I would not accept it works this way. It seems to be an attempt at using biology, to trivialize humanity, to apologize for the excesses of human life and fails to understand the nature of human sentience in any adequate way. To this scientists explanation of the mechanical, I think Yoda was much more accurate when he said “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter”.

Its perhaps the clearest indication of our age that we have not managed to understand our own minds and consciousness while setting out to explain all of nature in either a mechanical or a biological model. We think that all things can be explained as the sum of their parts, but somehow we are living proof that we are a greater whole. Its a notion that I think modern science has not managed to ever reconcile properly in its attempts across the ages, and an issue that’s not talked up in the public because I think people fail to understand how limited really the scientific endeavors is.

I suppose that the cross is there when you jump from biology to psychology, these two fields representing the two halves of the gap, and you might say that evolutionary psychology and cognitive science represents the bridge builders of science trying to find out how this seemingly uncrossable chasm might be managed. I do not think that the modern mindset, with its unexamined assumptions encapsulated within the scientific method and of the easily testable requirement of everything are well suited to solving the human conundrum in such a complex changing and variable environment as a single human being. It seems to me that no human can ever fully understand another human, and I think that thought too is a revolutionary one, when you think about it in the course of every day life.


One Comment

    • behappy
    • Posted June 9, 2005 at 11:38 pm
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    Hmm…it seems that you have forgotten to mention life’s values from a religious viewpoint. If you don’t think the scientists have got it completely right then surely an explanation offered by a religion is just as valid?

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