The Unexamined Life Is Totally Worth Living

Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living.

Me: Shut up.

You know what’s demoralizing? Genocide. Babies being punched to death. Famine. Pigs being injected with semen to avoid having them fuck. Bourgeois boredom. Being a 25 year old graduate student and still having to look up how to spell bougeouise bourgeois bourgeois. Homelessness. Domestic abuse. And studying Plato.

Now, duh: studying Plato in an academic context is not exactly living without food, water, internet and shelter. That is, it could be way worse. However, this essay/rant is not about the kind of grave misfortunes that mark the covers of Time magazine. Rather, this essay is concerned with the misfortune of Profundity Junky Syndrome. Profundity Junky Syndrome (PJS) is an illness which mars philosophical thinkers with serious conceptual confusions. Typical symptoms include: solipsism, skepticism (Maybe “it’s all a dream..”), grandiose pronouncements defining Reality (the capital R kind), “cosmic woo woo”/metaphysical gobbly gook/nonsense talk, just to name a few. But a most glaring symptom of PJS is the following: the searching for the “essence” of a something, eg of “Truth”, “Knowledge”, “Reality”, “Time”, “Human Nature”, “Art”, “Piety”, et fucking cetera. Hold the sensibility and dont forget the capital letters, you know, to show we are talking about the “more real” entity of such concepts.

Basically, profundity junkies prize a relentless search for essences/definitions of supposed substances and frame such inquiries as What is X? questions. The search is so relentless, philosophers are still having a terribly boring debate over the definition/criteria of “Knowledge”, ever since Plato framed the question “What is Knowledge?” in the Theaetetus. Plato’s dialogues are riddled with such “deep” questions.

Profundity Junkies are strongly inclined to speak of – you guessed it – profundities – rather than “boring ordinary everyday talk” – especially when attempting to answer a philosophical question. Philosopher J.L. Austin calls such talk being “drunk with false profundity”. Here are some examples of profundity junky talk via quotes from students in my Plato seminar where adults (ie, not children) are paying thousands of dollars to study philosophy:


(points to a whiteboard eraser): “What gives this its eraseriness?”

“Is this more real than this? Because there’s a real difference here.”

“I cant know what cobbling is, unless I know what knowledge itself is.”

So: because PJS typically worsens when one (naively) focuses on Plato’s dialogues (I mean, what is Knowledge really?), I declare: the unexamined life is totally worth living. I mean, sure, reflect on what youre “going to do” with your life and stare at an Alex Grey painting and wonder “how it all began” (be sure to do this while also gazing at the stars). But if Plato’s/Socrates’ examined life is consumed with deluded soul definition searching, then just stop. Rewind. Go back to your frame of mind where you speak of “knowing” (I know I have to get there early), “time” (What time is it?) and “art” (The Modern Art Museum had cool stuff) – where you speak of such things just fine. In fact, you speak of such things so well, there’s no problem. Not even a philosophical one.

This “essay” is part one of who-knows-what and is thus, incomplete as it is now. But to further resonate this rant about PJS back to the beginning topic of demoralizing issues: maybe those thinkers consumed with trying to solve traditional “philosophical problems” can be cured of PJS and move on to trying to solve actual problems.

This essay is a product of a frustrating joke of a class paired with a very sober day. The term “profundity junky” is credited to  professor John W. Powell of Humboldt State University. To be discussed next time: What is a game? and the oversimplified account of language that guides many philosophers’ thinking. To be continued…

the forms are this way.



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Comments
3 Responses to “The Unexamined Life Is Totally Worth Living”
  1. Ck says:

    Your charmingly acerbic confessional is real cute and all, but where are the arguments ‘Soren’? Is that why OLP is dead??

    BOOOM!!

    Suck it.

    • soren says:

      I wrote an essay for class this semester and the paper highlights OLP themes for sure. There are even arguments in my essay! And examples too! Give me your actual email and I’ll send you a copy.

      This post is mainly a descriptive account of a popular approach to addressing philosophical questions. If you’re familiar with academic philosophy, then you’re familiar with the What is X? questions and the common method of seeking an essentialist definition for certain concepts. This is just how traditional philosophy has been done in the literature (eg for confusion regarding ‘knowledge’ due to the lack of an essentialist definition, see Plato’s Theaetetus and the parade of essays written after Gettier).

      So it’s unclear what you want an argument for exactly, considering this specific post is mainly about how traditional philosophy is done (in classes and in much of the literature). Im glad you think Im acerbic though. I really do try.

      OLP seeks clarity in the face of the philosopher’s confusion. Much of the confusion arises from an unwarranted demand for essentialist accounts of concepts that are already mistreated via a picture of ‘language’ as referentialism. Plato owes us an argument. I formalized an argument on his behalf and then argued against it, in my essay, which you clearly, should read.

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