Explain which view you think makes the most sense and why.


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In Plato’s dialogue, the Apology, his main character, the philosopher Socrates, claims that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” For Socrates, the ceaseless, rational examination of our beliefs and actions is the essence of philosophy. In our readings this week, we are confronted by two very different responses to this claim and its relation to religious belief. On the one hand, we have David Shatz, who argues that, although he is a trained academic philosopher, his life would be worse if he had to over-examine it. This seems to mean that, if he had to apply philosophy systematically to his Orthodox religious beliefs and way of life, then he would be miserable because it is his religious beliefs and lifestyle, and not philosophy, that makes his life meaningful. On the other hand, we have the figure of Salomon Maimon, who left his life as an Orthodox Jew behind and pursued philosophy with a passion. Even though his choices led to divorce and impoverishment, he seems to think that his pursuit of philosophy was worth it. Not only did he make some significant philosophical contributions–for instance, Kant recognized him as an important critic of his views–he also thought that, regardless of the significance of his contributions, the philosophical examination of his own life was central to its value. He could not have imagined giving up his rather precarious life in Berlin and going back to his stable life as a pious Jew in Poland. Interestingly, there seems to be a third way, as depicted in the life and work of Moses Mendelssohn, whom Maimon writes about. Mendelssohn was a committed Jew who also devoted himself fully to philosophy. Using the readings, explain which view you think makes the most sense and why. What might someone who holds a contrary point of view says in response to your arguments?

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Explain which view you think makes the most sense and why.

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