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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: March 2011

9 - Self-Examination


There are two texts that may be considered as fundamental for the understanding of the Socratic notion of self-examination: one from the Apology, one from the Phaedrus. (In this chapter, I shall restrict myself to discussion of the notion as it appears in Plato, without claiming that Plato gives us the authentic, (i.e., historical) Socratic version – although I know of no evidence that would seriously interfere with such a claim.)

1. Apology 37E3–38A6: Perhaps someone might say “But Socrates – why shouldn’t you be able to leave Athens and keep your mouth shut, living a quiet life?” This is what it’s most difficult of all to persuade some of you about. If I say that living a quiet life is disobedience to the god, and that therefore it’s impossible to do it, you won’t believe me because you’ll think I’m being ironical. If on the other hand I say that it really is a good of the highest order for a human being to spend each day in discussions about virtue [or ‘excellence’, ‘goodness’: aretê] and the other things you hear me conversing about , and examining myself and others, and that the unexamined life is unliveable for a human being – if I say that, you’ll believe me even less.

2. …