The Examined Life

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The Examined Life
The Examined Life, first edition.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorRobert Nozick
CountryUnited States
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)

The Examined Life is a 1989 collection of philosophical meditations by the philosopher Robert Nozick.[1] The book drew a number of critical reactions. The work is drawn partially as a response to Socrates assertion in Plato's "The Apology of Socrates" that the unexamined life is one not worth living[2][3]


The book is an attempt to "tackle human nature, the personal, 'the holiness of everyday life' and its meaning."[4] Nozick expresses his concerns with libertarianism and proposes some form of inheritance taxation.[5][6] Within the first few pages of the book, Nozick alludes to being receptive to critics of his previous publication Anarchy, State, and Utopia by admitting that his libertarian concepts were "seriously inadequate".[citation needed]


Denis Donoghue praised The Examined Life in The Wilson Quarterly, but stated that it had some passages that were less strong than others.[2] The journalist Jane O'Grady called the work "disappointingly schmaltzy" in The Guardian.[4]

In The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2005), the philosopher Anthony Quinton described The Examined Life as "unkindly treated".[7]

Jim Holt, a columnist for The Literary Review leaves a few remarks about the "semantic slum", essentially deeming it "trickled down philosophy", saying that it is not worth following/reading.


  1. ^ Capaldi, Nicholas (1998). The Enlightenment Project in the Analytic Conversation. Springer. p. 371. ISBN 9780792350149.
  2. ^ a b Donoghue, Denis (Spring 1990). "The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations by Robert Nozick (review)". The Wilson Quarterly. 14 (2): 92–94. JSTOR 40258049.
  3. ^ "Apology", Plato: Euthyphro; Apology of Socrates; and Crito, Oxford University Press, 1924-01-01, doi:10.1093/oseo/instance.00254376, ISBN 978-0-19-814015-3, retrieved 2021-09-21
  4. ^ a b O' Grady, Jane (January 26, 2002). "Robert Nozick: Leftwing political philosopher whose rightward shift set the tone for the Reagan-Thatcher era". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Wolff, Jonathan (1991). Robert Nozick: Property, Justice and the Minimal State. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 156. ISBN 0-8047-1856-3.
  6. ^ Guido Erreygers, Toon Vandevelde (1997). Is Inheritance Legitimate?: Ethical and Economic Aspects of Wealth Transfers. Springer. p. 8. ISBN 9783540627258.
  7. ^ Quinton, Anthony (2005). Honderich, Ted (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 740. ISBN 0-19-926479-1.