On the Importance of Rational Ideals

Monday, August 06, 2018

As part of her discussion of moral perfection in Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Tara Smith considers what that ideal really means:

To complain that the dart is off by a fraction of a millimeter is silly. (Image via Pixabay.)
On Rand's view, a person is perfect when he does his best. A person's best must be understood relative to his particular circumstances, however. It cannot be identified apart from the individual's knowledge, experience, abilities, resources, or options. Notice that many everyday references to perfection recognize the importance of context. We do not dispute a test score as perfect simply because the test was not more difficult (being pitched to 4th graders, for instance, rather than 12th graders). We do not deny that a person has perfect vision because other animals or machines can see something that he cannot. The perfect is construed as the best possible to a certain type of being in a certain situation, on a reality-governed conception of the possible. (238-239)
In her discussion, Smith also notes the damage caused by irrational, deity-inspired notions of perfection, which, among other things, undermine the morale of some and provide a ready-made excuse for moral failing to others.

One just about cannot read this book without improving one's understanding at every turn, thereby attaining both hope for perfection and the knowledge of how to get there.

-- CAV


8-8-18: Corrected a typographical imperfection. 

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