Class Warfare Blog

July 4, 2020

The Good and the Perfect

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:15 am
Tags: , , ,

I am reading a survey of the roots of western civilization and am at the ancient Greek stage.

Socrates focused on living a life of virtue and based it upon a search for the meaning of “good.” What is good? is the question he asked . . . and tried to answer. He felt that any man who didn’t have the exactly correct definition of virtue, would be mislead and make mistakes leading to a life that is not virtuous, at least in some aspects.

And, of course, thousands of years of philosophy have resulted in the following definition of “is good” . . . <cricket, cricket, . . .>.

Plato followed up the idea by extending it to all things, not just “the good.” He felt that it was obvious that there is a realm in which perfect examples, called Forms, of everything existed. Not just chairs and swords and Quiche Lorraines but abstracts like Beauty, Virtue, and Bravery.

This is somewhat understandable as one can imagine a craftsman building some device, a chair perhaps, and if they took their time and worked carefully and kept on improving that chair, either there would be an end to that process, a perfect chair, or there would not be. Plato was, like Socrates, enamored of perfect states, even though no such thing exists in nature. This was swept under the rug by declaring that all real things were but imperfect copies of the perfect Forms available in that other place.

Obviously, some people have too much imagination for their own good.

This ideas of perfect states feeds into the ideas of dichotomies, e.g. good and evil, dog lovers and cat lovers, Republicans and Democrats. The idea was that the other have of the pair is needed to define the first part and without that other part being in existence then we would not feel the first part. This is utter nonsense of course. (And dangerous. We think Repubs and Dems are opposites because they oppose one another when, in reality, you can’t tell which is which from their appearances or behaviors. They are not opposites, they are both defenders of the status quo.)

I have written on the dichotomy of good and evil and the claim that without evil, then good wouldn’t exist. This lame argument is, I suspect, a weaselly argument in defense of the argument from evil, basically “if God is all-good, why does evil exist?”

Good and evil, to start, aren’t opposites. The real opposites are good and bad. I have a rather extensive vocabulary and couldn’t come up with the opposite of evil. Here’s two lists I found:
Antonyms goodness, good, redeeming(a), beneficent, virtuous, redemptive, goody-goody, beatific, sainted, white, saving(a), saintlike, angelic, saintly, angelical. Synonyms malevolent, vicious, malefic, malign.
The antonyms are wishy-washy and the synonyms are vicious. There is no good antonym for “evil,” one that depicts the extreme nature of that word.

And, the silly argument that one part of the dichotomy is needed to define the other is easily disproved, even a baby can do it. Offer a baby (of suitable age) their first lick of an ice cream cone. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, said baby will express pleasure and want more. It will act out the thought, “Hey, that shit is goood . . . gimme, gimme, gimme.” Now does that baby know a definition of evil, does it know evil at all? Is it necessary that it have an innate understanding of “bad” or “evil” to appreciate the goodness of ice cream? Or is it the case that that baby has programmed into it a number of behaviors that lead to its success? Of course, religious apologists will say that the baby has an innate morality as a gift from their god, but that doesn’t explain anything, that is just another baseless claim to add to the stacks of the other baseless claims they have made.

The philosophical “problem of evil” is often explained away that man can do evil because we have free will, otherwise we would just be slaves to Yahweh’s will. And what do they say in other areas? They say, “Be a slave to Yahweh’s will, it will make you happy! And you will end up in Heaven and not Hell.” So, being a slave to Yahweh’s will is a bad thing if it is involuntary but a very good thing if it is voluntary. I think being a slave to Yahweh’s will is . . . being a slave to Yahweh’s will.

Plus, as I have pointed out often enough, the tradeoff is not “evil for free will” it is “evil for the free will to do evil.” Yahweh could have made us lacking in the free will to do evil things but with free will in everything else. Is that a tradeoff you would be in favor of? Hell, even Donald Trump would take that deal . . . well, maybe not.

Dichotomies, like perfect states are stages of thinking, I think, that we had to go through, just like the phases your parent’s talked about when you were young, e.g. “Oh, it is just a phase she is going through.” This was a universal excuse used by parents for inexplicable behavior of their children when I was young. (Is this still the case?)

Unfortunately way too many moderns are still stuck in these archaic, simplistic modes of thinking. Believing in imaginary things and perfections are rife in our culture.

How different things would be if we, as the new age gurus encourage, were to “focus on the journey and not the destination.” If a piece of software had to be perfect before it was sold, we wouldn’t have any software. If a car had to be perfect before it was sold, we would have to cars. If loaves of bread had to be perfect, the shelves of our supermarkets (the “bread aisle) would have empty shelves.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

10 Comments »

  1. Well, while I think that perfection is unattainable, I would still like to have a car where everything works and deal with software that doesn’t crash every few minutes.

    Like

    Comment by List of X — July 4, 2020 @ 8:41 am | Reply

    • Yeah, that wasn’t exactly Bill Gates’ philosophy, now was it? Only by a certain rigging of the rules was Bill Gates allowed to dominate the operating system market, a market that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Can you imagine buying a car without an operating system or for which expensive upgrades were necessary?

      What we are talking about are standards and “perfection” isn’t a spot on that number line. I think a company’s marketing claims should be legally binding. But then I also think that a political candidate’s promises need to be a major part of any re-election campaign.

      On Sat, Jul 4, 2020 at 8:41 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 4, 2020 @ 9:33 am | Reply

  2. Your argument falls apart when all the baby ever gets to eat is ice cream. For the baby to actually appreciate dessert, he must taste the raw onion to know a difference. Platos cave comes to mind.

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    Comment by jim- — July 4, 2020 @ 9:48 am | Reply

    • Baby fed only ice cream = dead baby … end of experiment.

      Plus, there you go again … right to an extreme … just like Plato. (I guess being compared to Plato can’t be considered a bad thing … just not a perfect thing.)

      On Sat, Jul 4, 2020 at 9:48 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 4, 2020 @ 9:57 am | Reply

      • To illustrate this in a realistic way, Ive been to some third world squalor, and arguably met some of the happiest people in the world. They don’t know any better

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        Comment by jim- — July 4, 2020 @ 10:07 am | Reply

        • Studies show that increased income makes people happier … up to a point. I think the point is at which our lives are no longer precarious as it is not very much actual income. Additional income after that point does not increase happiness and often decreases happiness.

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          Comment by Steve Ruis — July 4, 2020 @ 10:38 am | Reply

          • I think the bigger problem is these depressed areas are still exposed to extravagant living through internet now and tv, creating desires they normally do not have, by watching staged happiness on the screen.

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            Comment by jim- — July 4, 2020 @ 10:44 am | Reply

            • And what they don’t know … ? Maybe if they actually saw what was going on they would rise up in rebellion. There is so much bullshit propagated by the rich about poverty. They say it is a measure of character, laziness, intelligence, lack of education, etc when it is proven over and over that poverty comes from a lack of money. If the truly poor were given enough money to get by, they would work very hard to get more, just as they are doing now.

              I never saw harder working people than ordinary folks in Mexico. Yet, in California, the stereotype was “The Lazy Mexican.” There’s always a reason that people are poor, but don;t ask anyone rich or privileged to figure out what that is.

              On Sat, Jul 4, 2020 at 10:44 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Liked by 2 people

              Comment by Steve Ruis — July 4, 2020 @ 10:51 am | Reply

  3. It’s interesting how often the answer to age old questions is, there is no answer, because the question is vague, incomplete, or ambiguous.

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    Comment by SelfAwarePatterns — July 4, 2020 @ 10:34 am | Reply

    • In truth, there is no subtlety at all—it is merely an endless maze of confusion—Alan Watts

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by jim- — July 4, 2020 @ 1:20 pm | Reply


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