Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Perfect Post (Part I: Groundwork)

So, then, I've decided that, after a series of philozophical epiphanies, (and yes, I spelled that with a "z"'s intentional) I will be doing a few blog posts based off of a very intriguing concept which I found in my Metaphysics class, and that is the concept of perfection, and the applications which it presents. You may not really be into philosophy much, but I'll be making every attempt to break things down into the easiest level possible, because my only purpose in writing these is to share what I've found, and hopefully shed some light on topics which are pertinent to all of us as Catholics, Christians, or even simply as human beings.

So, then, I begin by introducing the concept which will be the most key to understanding my following posts (so that I don't have to explain it every time I talk about it). This is the concept of perfections, that is, "mixed perfections" and "pure perfections". We use the term "perfect" for a lot of things. Sometimes we use it incorrectly, but many times, we still use it correctly and run into some contradictions. We speak of perfect truth, of perfect goodness, but also of the perfect day, the perfect meal, and even the perfect man or woman. Do we mean the same thing when we say this? Quite evidently not. But what do we mean, then, and how do we tell the difference?

The answer is that some of these, such as the perfect day or meal, are mixed perfections, while others, such as perfect truth, are pure perfections. The two types have different properties, even while they are also similar. First, though, let's look at the characteristics of each type.

A pure perfection is truly infinite. Absolute goodness, absolute truth, absolute beauty, freedom, justice, etc., these are all infinite things. They are also all pure perfections. On the other hand, a mixed perfection is always finite. The perfect meal, for example, is limited by a number of factors. A meal can only be so big before it begins to be unenjoyable. A meal can only be made out of food which exists in reality. A meal can only be cooked in physically possible ways.

A pure perfection is always better to possess than not to possess. It is always better to be true than to be false, to be good than to be bad, to love than not to love. On the other hand, you can't say the same for mixed perfections. It is not always better, for example, for a thing to perfectly be gold, as King Midas found out in a rather painful manner. While gold should possess the perfection of gold in some degree, we cannot say the same about a human being.

A pure perfection is completely compatible with other pure perfections. Truth, for example, is perfectly compatible with beauty, and with wisdom, and with freedom, and with justice. There is nothing in any of them which actually contradicts the others. If something is really true, it can also be really beautiful, for example. On the other hand, mixed perfections are not always compatible with other mixed perfections. An easy example: the perfect man and the perfect woman. It is impossible for a being to be both the perfect man and the perfect woman, because they are contradictory perfections. Also, mixed perfections are sometimes incompatible with pure perfections. For example, a perfect dog cannot also be perfectly wise, or even begin to approach perfect wisdom, because wisdom requires rationality, which contradicts the perfection of dog.

Finally, while there is no general intrinsic connection among mixed perfections, the pure perfections actually draw towards each other. In a way, they "call" for one another. Let us take Freedom, for example. In order for one to be truly free, one must also possess Truth. In order for one to possess Truth they must also have Unity. To have Unity they must have Being. It also goes in the opposite direction. And, really, it's like a giant network of perfections, because every perfection draws upon every other perfection, and in some way, the other perfections exist in it. We can look at Beauty and also see Truth, Wisdom, Justice, and Goodness in it. This is hinted at, for example, when Keats says "Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.", and what Dietrich Von Hildebrand says when he makes the claim that when Truth is removed from Beauty, you have neither Truth nor Beauty in the result.

So, then, you can hopefully start to see the difference between the two. When we think of the "perfect day", we mean the finite, mixed perfection of day. When we speak of "perfect beauty", we speak of the infinite, pure perfection of Beauty. Where am I going with this?

You'll just have to wait a little while whilst I start work on my next entry, which struck me in Metaphysics class today.

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