A Perfect World?

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Postby thejanissary » Mon Apr 01, 2002 4:54 am

Hi all, I had a question that's been nagging at me that I hoped you philosphers could help me out with. You see, I was contemplating a perfect world (you know, the typical poverty-free, disease-free, violence-free sort of thing), and was wondering what exactly we would occupy ourselves with in just such a world. From my perspective, it seems that in our own way, all of us are trying to achieve this perfect world (or a perfect world for us specifically), but I was wondering if you could explain to me what meaning or purpose life would have if every problem, every goal, and every need was taken care of for us. I'm just speaking hypothetically here, since I know this probably will never happen, but I was hoping you could help me out. Thanks for your time.<P>-Jade
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Postby Pangloss » Mon Apr 01, 2002 1:48 pm

CULTURE.<P>Your perfect world, free of disease, poverty and violence, is a world where the material defecit and the survival challenge are no more, and many very lucky people on this planet live under such a condition. When 'every problem, and every need was taken care of for us', we'd then be free to pursue an understanding of why we are here and how we can express such ideas. Beyond survival is art. And beyond art is salvation. There is no set code, and no set formula for such an undertaking, as it is essentially personal.
Many people treat this opportunity to truly 'live' with derisory contempt. They learn the rules to live by, imbued by the ettiquette of their society; and at this point see themselves 'fit' for the world. Though such people en masse constitute a society which has a character and a culture of its own, which is often a source of salvation for the individual within that society. I personally feel great sadness though, when I hear of somebody who fades in, then fades out of life, and I would advise against this path.
Without wishing to overdo the semantics, you interestingly wrote of 'every goal ... taken care of for us'. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to suggest some sort of steady state. s s s s s. As if you're asking what there would be once all activity stood still. Existentialists would argue that your very existence should be enough. That the steady state IS the motion in life you were asking about. Such an existence doesn't appeal to me. It is dishonest and doesn't acknowledge the reality of motion in life, of boom and bust, of interest, and the extent to which we can develop. From the individual, or from the mass, there is ambition; and this ambition is undermined if looked upon as manufactured. The very heights of human acheivement give me something to look towards, a religious object almost; and such heights spur me on to maintain this remarkable rate of growth. It *is* the motion. Time moves, therefore we should to.
Nietzsche's concept of a 'will to power', a drive for self-improvement is an accurate description of what is within us to make ourselves fit for activity. And it is the mass activity that fills this great void you have identified, a void that I and others like me would consider to be INFINITE.
A snapshot of this activity, this motion, this search for salvation, is what I loosely define as 'Culture'; and cultures have developed out of the exact void you are speaking of.<P>-Leo<P><p>[This message has been edited by Pangloss (edited 01 April 2002).]
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Postby thejanissary » Mon Apr 01, 2002 11:47 pm

You're quite insightful and well-spoken. Thank you for answering my question.
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Postby Flamin'RedJJ » Tue Apr 02, 2002 2:02 pm

It seems to me that you have missed an important point in attempting to sound exceptionally intellectual!<P>Isn't culture just an extension of the more general area of recreation?
If people have no need to work in order to survive and procreate etc. then they will simply indulge their recreational urge and their pursuit of leisure.<P>Although it would be nice to think that people in the perfect world, with so much time on their hands, would focus their energies on "higher" matters like philosophy and the creative impulse, it is unlikely that many would, especially in a world that lacked the imperfections that clearly fuel artistic development.
Very little art is ever produced solely for its own sake- take Beethoven, who was supposed to be one of the first classical composers to reject court life and secure patronage in order to pursue his own line- his music still had other motivations like politics e.g. Symphony no.3, originally dedicated to Napoleon for his republican zeal.<P>Anyway, the point I'm making is that culture is either simply a recreational activity effectively ranking alongside ping-pong and stamp collection, or it is the product of an intricate set of problems, frustrations and imperfections, designed with a specific purpose in mind.
And in a 'perfect' world, there are no problems or factors to motivate the production of art and culture.<P>In such a world, culture would be devalued.
But are people necessarily always capable of producing great works of art? 'Culture', as you refer to it, will always remain the province of the elite (in terms of ability) in its development and creation.
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Postby Pangloss » Tue Apr 02, 2002 9:41 pm

'It seems to me that you have missed an important point in attempting to sound exceptionally intellectual!'
Tut tut. Who are you to accuse me of being the champion of style over substance, when it is the peaceful symbiosis of the two that represents the true essence of my argument. I would suspect that it is you who is the true charlatan here. Are you really a professor of modern history living in Wisconsin (river, not rock!), or are you a mere boy living in humble Uxbridge? I know who you are.<P>I know why you would want to feign authority, as you insist 'culture' is and will always remain 'the province of the elite'. I've never known such a vulgar right-wing view. What contempt you have for the people, as if the customs and civilisation of a population are of no consequence. To categorise culture as a subunit of recreation, or as a by-product of commerce is really quite offensive, a misanthropic mistake. Dissapointing as well, coming from such a fine violinist.
But I don't want to be caught up in an argument over the definition of 'culture'. What next? - 'postmodernism'?; we'd be slitting our wrists.<P>The idea of a 'perfect' world lacking the imperfections and problems which fuel artistic development is on the surface a valid argument. Set in the context of our current 'imperfect' world, this would seem obvious. Yet, a little more imagination is needed if we are to truly contemplate the activity of a 'perfect' world.
The main buzzword of my post was 'motion'. It is the concept that makes us get out of bed every morning, instead of lying there frozen. 'Time moves, therefore we should to.'
Commerce and recreation constitute the activity that humanity has cast. Yet this activity merges -in our 'imperfect' world- with the survival need that all people have. To blur such activity with culture is assuming that the setting for such activity was the 'imperfect' world, where matters of survival, art and salvation are not black, white and grey; whilst in the 'perfect' world, survival -as an aim- does not exist. By refusing to recognise the distinct difference between these two 'worlds', you would be dehumanising the arts to a formal emblem of our aesthetic activity in commerce and recreation within an 'imperfect' world. It is more than that. Even in the 'imperfect' world.
Yet in a 'perfect' world, culture would not be devalued as you predict. It would take on a different guise -a religious function- as people would be living for their culture, and finding salvation through it. As the Aesthetic movement led by Oscar Wilde (a man whose material needs were fully satiated) adopted for its motto - 'Art for art's sake'. Art would be removed from its elitist pedestal of the 'imperfect', 'real' world, and would be made to carry out its true function as King Oscar stated in 'the soul of man under socialism'; to find our own individual perfection.
The world would 'beautiful'. The world would be 'perfect'.<P>[This message has been edited by Pangloss (edited 02 April 2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by Pangloss (edited 02 April 2002).]
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Postby ben » Wed Apr 03, 2002 3:22 pm

I'm not quite sure what to make of all the banter that is going on in this post, but it is very amusing!<P>What I picked up on in this topic is that there has been an amalgamation of perfection and purpose. Even in a perfect world, there would be no purpose for life (taking an evolutionary existentialist view, religion can take a back seat for a bit Image). In our 'imperfect' world, getting rid of war, poverty, disease etc. are social purposes which are imposed on us by society. They are not external purposes for living life.<P>Why then, would the purpose of living in a perfect world, be any different? Existentialists would say that there is no external purpose in life and that we create our own meaning. In an imperfect world, for some people, that meanings comes from attempting to fulfil the goals that society pushes upon us. For others, happiness and contentment plays an important role and is manifested, as pangloos said, in culture. <P>I think the similarity between a perfect and imperfect world would be that in both cases, individuals would strive towards personal happiness in whatever form they choose. Obviously, the environments would be totally different in the two worlds and so the ways of achieving happiness would be different.<P>What would be interesting to see is how many of our imperfect world's cultural activities would remain in the perfect world and how many new ones would spring up. Also, what would be the drive for people to take part in such activities, i.e. if there was no political drive in John Lennon, would he still have been a Beatle?<P>Religiously, well from a Judaeo-Christian (Islamic?) perspective, presumably a perfect world would mean that the messiah had come (for the 1st or 2nd time depending on who you ask) and that the big battle had been fought between good and evil etc. In which case, the purpose of life in the imperfect world, which was to get a ticket to heaven, worship God, lead a good life etc. would now be null and void. I wonder what exactly the purpose of life is supposed to be when salvation has occured. Do they have the internet in heaven? Not that it matters for me Image<P>
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Postby JP » Wed Apr 03, 2002 5:17 pm

I think the point you're all over-looking is that each of us have different notions of perfection and that a perfect world (our environment changes, we do not) is entirely unattainable. The only way a perfect world could be attained is if we all thought in exactly the same way and had the exact same sensual receptivity, which, in my mind anyway, would be an unsatisfactory and dull mode of existence - a paradoxically imperfect existence. We could never agree on what form a perfect world should take and, even though we all strive for a perfect existence in a way, we're all heading in slightly different directions.Of course, I suppose there are other ways of acheiving a more subjective form of perfection. For instance, if, instead of making the world more perfect, we could just make the people perfect instead (or both).
But then the problem still arises: what does the perfect human look like? What does he want from life? How does he talk, how does he behave? We return to the Neitzchean ubermensch, and, in the same vain as Neitzsche, I wonder if anyone can paint a picture, hang it up and declare "Ecce Homo". Can there be a perfect mode of human existence? Is there any by-the-numbers description of what humanity should entail? Or are we just meant to establish that for ourselves individually?
Or maybe I'm just being to sensitive to the wants of other people. What if I could live in my own perfect world without other people? According to my above refutation, hell certainly is other people in the context of perfection (so long as there are other human beings, your single notion of a perfect world is unattainable) but at the same time, I'm sure that there aren't many people who would prefer this individual existence even if your every sensual desire were fulfilled by your environment. Other people are important to who I am as an individual, and my own, subjective concept of a perfect world would have to take this into account.
So I think, at bottom, without wishing to labour my point, perfection is only attainable if we all think in exactly the same way or if we are able to be our lot happy with our lot regardless (which amounts to the same thing). Or is that the answer though? Keep the world as it is and just make sure that everyone is perpetually happy regardless of what happens? Would this be a perfect world? How would we know if we were living in a perfect world anyway? Would we have anything to compare it to?
Your perfect world, free of disease, poverty and violence, is a world where the material defecit and the survival challenge are no more, and many very lucky people on this planet live under such a condition. When 'every problem, and every need was taken care of for us', we'd then be free to pursue an understanding of why we are here and how we can express such ideas. Beyond survival is art. And beyond art is salvation.
Sound kinda like this pop-philosophy my friend was given in one of his business classes - that there are different levels of needs and wants that people need to acheive to be happy. The lowest level is material satisfaction (to be warm, well fed at first, then people who don't leave this level start buying expensive cars, jewellry etc.), followed by self-satisfaction (self-esteem, sound mind etc.), followed by societal satisfaction (well liked by people, friends etc.) and so on it goes (I think there are 7 levels in all, but few people evolve past the first three). Anyway, my point is, people cannot move onto the next level of happiness (each level providing an exponentially greater increase in happiness) until the previous level has been entirely satisfied. People who are starving - so have not yet fulfilled the first level - cannot yet gain any happiness from the next level until this has stage has been satisfied. Afghani refugees can have a high-self esteem and have a lot of friends, but it's not
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Postby Flamin'RedJJ » Wed Apr 03, 2002 7:59 pm

I like biscuits.
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Postby Flamin'RedJJ » Wed Apr 03, 2002 8:34 pm

Anyway...<P>Clearly Jade was quite specific in his/her (sorry!) vision of the "perfect" world- it was one where 'every problem, every goal, and every need was taken care of for us'.
Obviously it's pointless to debate the intricacies of the nature of this place because there's no way it could exist- it runs contrary to human nature.
So just start from the supposition he makes and run with the hypothetical.<P>When I described culture as remaining the 'province of the elite', I was not espousing right wing views (the clue is in the name), but pointing out that culture- as you describe it- is not at a level attainable by all.
Many people lack any creative drive or natural talent- how would they be able to produce art on the road to salvation?!<P>Bach is unique (to pick an entirely random example).
Jo from round the corner is also unique.
However, Bach writes brilliant music that many argue will never be surpassed in its excellence and mathematical perfection.
Odds are, Jo from round the corner can...do handprints?!
People are not some homogenous (no joke intended) mass of art-producers. If everyone could do it, then it would become devalued.<P>If art and culture became a new religion, then this would leave many permanently without 'salvation'.
But what would they need salvation from in the perfect world?<P>And, because it's becoming tiring to see everyone referring to Neitszche all the time or the really deep and revered philosophers like hmmm...Oscar Wilde, may I point to the work of the humanist Thomas More?
He wrote an interesting work entitled, 'Utopia', which means (in the Greek) 'no place'.
Nobody's sure whether he actually meant it as his true vision of perfection, or whether he merely intended to point out the problems of his own society (hmmm- culture/art produced in response to imperfection in society?)by presenting an ideal towards which we should all work.
But isn't it interesting that the word 'Utopia' in English has acquired a meaning of 'the impossible'?<P>N.B. George Eliot: not a man.
<p>[This message has been edited by Flamin'RedJJ (edited 03 April 2002).]
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Postby Pangloss » Wed Apr 03, 2002 11:14 pm

I love the way some people lead a double life.
N.B. George Eliot: not a man:
N.B. George E. Eliot: not a woman: but a Cambridge philosopher at the beginning of the 20th. century, albeit, a crap philosopher, like Bertrand Russell (RESPOND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)<P>Sam, for the 'perfect' world to run contrary to human nature, we would all have no aspirations to bind with other people, engage ourselves spiritually, or make peace with this distinctly 'imperfect' world we live in. It is not I, young sire, who is being cynical here, but yoau. For you are suggesting that individual perfection is unattainable. Culture, in my lucid definition is the entire activity of humanity to reach salvation from imperfection. The 'perfect' world is where they are heading. It is not a place in which we would be stretched to find anything to do (apart from what HVD recommended). It is a world where the individual has finally realised his/her own perfection and has made 'peace' with the widespread imperfection of the world. It is the state of mind we all aspire to have, and to suggest that Jade was referring to anywhere else is downright patronising.<P>It is not a utopia or 'impossible' location because many have realised their own perfection. That is what Oscar Wilde's entire existence is all about. He loved life, loved beauty and most importantly, loved himself. He did not penetrate metaphysics which is why he is not considered a great revered philosophy. I suggest you read his superb essay 'the soul of man under socialism'. It is set in the 'perfect' world, and he justifies an entire political economy on an aesthetic principle. The principle of perfection. If you can't find it, I posted it on the 'capitalism' topic on the polecon discussion board. You will swallow you words and choke on them.<P>You may even realise how similar Oscar Wilde's philosophy was to that of Jesus Christ. read it.<P>
As for becoming tired of hearing Nietzsche's name appear. I can sympathise with you. He was a pessimist and it can be gruelling to see his ideas mentioned in so many contexts.
Annoyingly for you, and for me, his idea of the will to power is crucial to my stance on this increasingly fierce debate. Grroooooowwwwwwwwwlllllll. <P>
Jade's big question, and a walk in Cass. park, east watford with my mum this sunny afternoon triggered off many big thoughts in my mind. I wrote it out into what could be considered an essay, though it is in no way finished or polished, or patented. I considered posting it here to bring this discussion to some sort of close (though it would probably do the opposite if people didn't read critically, but sympathetically). I won't though, because I wouldn't bother reading a post that long. Demand and supply. Simple as that.<P>Anyway, sleep well, and dream of yourself and the sound of bach playing as you skip through black RIVER falls in wisconsin.
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Postby Archie » Thu Apr 04, 2002 11:43 am

Okay, maybe I'm missing something here... but your life wouldn't have a meaning or purpose in a perfect world. It doesn't even have one here. I'm not trying to play the devils advocate, I just don't get why people even ask themselves questions like this.
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Postby Magius » Mon Aug 12, 2002 7:11 pm

Instead of writing a long post on my view of the perfect world, it will suffice to say that JP has got about 90% the same view as I, so read his post and you will know my opinion. Otherwise read my post within the thread "In a Perfect World..."
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Postby reggie73 » Tue Aug 13, 2002 10:40 pm

What is the purpose of life in an "imperfect" world? Is it different from that in a "perfect" world?
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Postby Pangloss » Tue Aug 13, 2002 11:57 pm

The purpose is (as an individual) to reach perfection. The perfect 'world' is attained when all individuals are capable of realising their own perfection, without any institutionalised imperfection or external perfection gained through dominance standing in their way.
Perfection as something to aim for, as opposed to something to reach, then appreciate.
It is not an idyllic state of affairs to be sought after, but rather as an ideal to be aimed for throughout life, a meaning if you like.

Marx's arguments were all correct apart from his underlying assumption of the exact source of conflict. Where an individual or a group stands in relation to the means of production as determining their class and status as 'controller' or 'controlled' does apply to humans' material needs. However, the true source of conflict and imperfection (especially in modern 'industrialised' societies) comes from each individual's effort to satisfy themselves beyond survival and the material need. Such satisfaction, as a method, varies enormously from person to person...

hence homogenising a societies' material wealth does not strike the point of where conflict arises. Conflict arises where an individual feels imperfect, and is incapable and inhibited from feeling perfection, or even realising it for him or herself.

Communism only becomes the 'perfect world' where every individual abides to its principle of material equality. This is why many kibbutzim have been deemed 'successful' whilst 20th century state communism was 'not'. Organisation and order from above in such a system would only undermine an individual's perfection, and cause dissent.
Although, being brought up in Britain, this view may be very biased, I must point out that my time spent with EYP (a European youth organisation) has shown me that co-operation for a common cause (Nash equ. etc.) is undermined by individuals' who are keen to realise their own perfection through dominance over others. This, therefore leads a failure to 'produce', the material needs for survival or luxury. If the feeling of inferiority is imperfection, then perfection is sought only by aiming for superiority i.e. through dominance over others. I often found during committee work in EYP, that those individual's from eastern Europe were less co-operative, more competitive, and less constructive within a given set of 'group' aims. The correlation was indisputable, though admittedly 'frequency of interruption' is difficult to quantify. Only one conclusion was clear on the evidence of my observations. -that- An individual's scope is determined not by the principles of a system they are brought up in, but by the principles they are directly exposed to.

more later ...

*
the concept of 'perfection' as an extension of socialism does not just derive a political and economic thesis, but also a moral base from which its ideal realistically relies upon. it is discussed in the Morality - where do you stand? thread here: http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/phpbb/vi ... 0&start=40
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Postby reggie73 » Wed Aug 14, 2002 12:25 am

If our purpose is always to reach perfection, then I think I need clarification on what actually constitutes perfection. Is perfection freedom from conflict? I agree that a perfect world results from individual's perfection as society and culture seem to be the outward manifestation of any given groups collective mode of being in the world. However, can we actually be imperfect? Is not everything perfect just as it is? If conflict arises where an individual feels imperfect, is this imperfection actual or perceived?
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Postby Pangloss » Wed Aug 14, 2002 12:54 am

reggie73 wrote:If conflict arises where an individual feels imperfect, is this imperfection actual or perceived?

Good question. Nice to hear somebody who gets the point of this.

Imperfection, when percieved, is actual. If an individual felt imperfect due to another individual's perfection Conflict arises where two individual's ability to realise their own perfection, overlaps. e.g. a domineering individual only realising their own perfection by enforcing their superiority over another, limiting their ability to realise their own perfection.


reggie73 wrote:I need clarification on what actually constitutes perfection

This may not answer your question properly, but 'perfection' differs for every individual. It is, in the simplest sense, feeling perfect. Fulfilling your potential, taking your talents as far as possible, or merely realising 'salvation' from a world percieved as rife with conflict, a world where people's overlapping and conflict is inevitable. It may be simply, to 'love thyself'.

The idea of perfection is brilliantly explored in the following essay by Oscar Wilde, which is scattered around these forums :
http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/hist_t ... _soul.html
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Postby reggie73 » Wed Aug 14, 2002 1:19 am

If perfection differs for every individual, then we are placing perfection in the subjective domain. If feeling perfect is perfection, than I'm sure we can find a few sociopaths who fit the bill. I feel it is important to expand the discussion to include objective aspects of perfection. Objectivity is a necessary contruct as we cannot even begin to label perfection outside of contexts facilitating its perception. If there were no other I would have no way of perceiving perfection or lack there of.
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