on complacency

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This is a bold assertion which is difficult to consider for several reasons.

Ignorance is bliss. For many, philosophical inquiries and conjecture are beyond the scope of their concern, but not due to a lack of intelligence. Some people simply feel as though actions, behaviors, or phenomena which can have no perceivable immediate impact on their lives are not worthy of their attention. This is a lamentable fallacy. While it is true that a man may be poorly informed about a particular subject or feel that his opinion on such matters would hold no sway, a vital component of the human existence is the examination of the internal and external environment.

time magazineMany seemingly foreign concepts have a much more familiar impact. An example of such a concept would be that of global climate change. While global climate change in itself is a continued topic of discussion, a large portion of individuals feel apathy in this regard. Meanwhile, those with vested interests continue to provide their own sets of data and draw spurious (and specious) conclusions from them. To an outsider of this contention, the barrage of seemingly sound science on both sides of the supposed debate may be overwhelming, but that should not dissuade individual contemplation of the facts:

  • The earth is warming, to some degree (specific increases are questionable)
  • Global weather systems are enormously complex and variable
  • The earth has both warmed and cooled in the past

By having established a (relatively) indisputable foundation, conclusions may be drawn (which may or may not be indisputable):

  • Man is capable of surviving both warming and cooling of the earth
  • Man is not the sole cause of current warming
  • Innovation and invention create more efficient methods of producing energy (in turn, affecting man’s contribution to warming)
  • The current warming trend would likely continue with or without human intervention

Global climate change has little observable effect on current day-to-day life, but even the presence of the question should beg an answer. In a few hundred years, the question of global climate change will be wholly irrelevant. For now, however, it behooves the earth’s inhabitants to ponder their actions. There are many more examples of ideas which should be given concern regardless of the level of overt relevance to one’s life. When the individual stops evaluating inquiries simply because he fails to relate to them, valid explanations and resolutions (even if only valid to the man himself) are lost to obscurity.

The difficulty in responding to Socrates’ charge comes in the fact that it is far simpler to live a life of satisfied disinterest, and many men will choose the simpler fate when presented a choice. Are so many men’s lives, then, not worth living? Politics, morality, science, the nature of being, and, ultimately, religion (rather, the concepts of redemption and salvation) should all be pursued in order that the most clarity and purpose be given to every man’s life.

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