Thursday, November 3, 2011


Perfection is a word that is, sadly, rather common; however, some time ago I've come to the realization that perfection is an incoherent concept. Interestingly enough, perfect has two major uses, one being the case of redundancy, if something must be perfect to suit a definition. The second and most significant problem is, outside vague and nonsensical use of the word, the idea of perfection is one that can be in virtue of a specific goal only. Something is perfect only in the sense it is idealized for a specific situation and/or for a specific goal and that any sort of universal or multiple areas of perfection is inane, which effectively defeats the idea of perfect.

What do I mean? Well, firstly lets look at the redundancy point. The phrase “A perfect circle” is redundant, because by definition a circle is perfect, or it is not a circle; likewise with square. Some phrases also use this, like “A perfect fit” well, obviously it either fits or it doesn't. If it's not a perfect fit, it is slightly loose, or slightly tight perhaps, but, really, it either fits or it doesn't.

The second use of perfect is interesting, since it's so damned silly. Let us define perfect, as a quick and by no means final but just for the purpose for this example, as “Any changes to the object/action will render it less effective or appealing, and no possible changes can make it more appealing or effective.” However, make note that this means it can only be in virtue of a person's perception or an intended use. Imagine the perfect sandwich. Well, it's perfect only due to the person eating it. One person's perfect sandwich is another person's mediocre sandwich. Even worse, one person's perfect sandwich on Wednesday may not the same as the perfect sandwich on Friday, for the same person. It stands to reason that, unless human biology changes, a sandwich which would reach the definition of perfect for a person can easily, later, be non-perfect as a different type of sandwich would be more desirable to eat, thus rendering the previous sandwich, which was perfect, to become non-perfect. The big problem? How can something that is perfect and cannot be changed to make it better somehow become non-perfect when no changes could possibly make it better? Well, because it's only in virtue of it being the most satisfying sandwich for a specific person at a specific time... which would be nice, but far from what the use of perfect tends to imply. The change in something outside the sandwich renders it perfect or imperfect, which means the properties of the sandwich, interestingly enough, is not what would make it perfect, or at least not in totality.

The idea of perfection is incoherent because it's only in virtue of a specific goal. A shoe that is a perfect size for me is only perfect due to the fact it fits in foot and any changes in size to the shoe would make it not fit. That does not make it a perfect shoe, however, as a perfect shoe must be universally a perfect fit for everyone, as a shoe that doesn't fit can't perform the intended use of a shoe. A ball is the perfect size only depending on what you need that size to be. A baseball is the “perfect” size to play baseball with. Likewise, the basketball is the “perfect” ball to play basketball with. That sort of renders the word perfect worthless, however, since there could be no “perfect” ball which suits both categories at the same time. A key can't fit all doors, so it becomes perfect only if the goal becomes to unlock the specific door that it opens...which makes it simply a key. Now, imagine the perfect key, the only way I could possibly think that it would be perfect is that opened all locks. Despite it being physically impossible... it would now render locks worthless and as such, the perfect key is no longer a key, but rather something that destroys the function of a lock. Perfection for the key means the impossibility of a perfect lock, suddenly. These physical examples are just showing that physical objects and actions can't be perfect, but still the most absurd use of perfect is for abstract or non-physical things.

Of course, the most inept use of perfect is a religious one. The phrase “God is perfect” is completely meaningless. Well, lets say someone goes “It means God has no flaws” which likewise is inane... because it really is just repeating the problem with the idea of perfect. Replace a sandwich with no flaws to me is going to have flaws to someone else. Furthermore, as I've said, perfect can only occur in virtue of a goal, so without a goal merely using the word perfect becomes, in the face of all logic, twice as meaningless. God is perfect in regards to what? Or, if you like, God is flawless in regards to what? Is God perfect at being a circle? Is God the perfect/flawless sandwich? No, you moron, you just use the word perfect because it has a positive connotation and you use it to try to express your emotion without trying to convey any meaning. Abstract things face the same problem with perfect. What could possibly be the perfect idea? The perfect number? It's all in virtue of context and goals, which renders perfection as a property completely impossible.

And with that note, I'll hint at my next post which no one will see, regarding language as degrees of impressionism.

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