Take the 2-minute tour ×
Philosophy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in logical reasoning. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Once in high school, a philosophy professor asked us the following question, as homework:

Is it possible for something perfect to be created by humans?

We were to discuss this question in the next class but for some reason the professor never came back to school, so we were never able to learn the answer (or the fact that there is no answer at all).

So, is there an answer for such question? Can humans create something perfect, something flawless for its intended reason and unable to fail? Or was it just a question to make us wonder and lend us to debate.

The professor told us that there is indeed a real ("accepted") answer to the question Despite, the answer itself could be "no, there is no answer", but to this day I remain uncertain.

EDIT: Some of you ask me for MY definition of perfection, as a way of being able to give an answer. I have NOT a definition for that, not to mention that my knowledge of any philosophy concept is minimum.

The thing i want to know is if that question is a common question in philosophy classes, like for example the query about "if a tree falls in an empty forest....", which afaik, is a "thought experiment" intented to wonder about reality and obvservation. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_a_tree_falls_in_a_forest

So, does the question have an accepted answer? Or as many other questions in philosophy, the professor only asked us to make us wonder and define ourselves our concept of perfection and thus giving ourselves a "personal" answer that fits our thoughts....

share|improve this question
"something perfect created by humans?" seems like half of a question; Do you mean to say, "Is it possible for something perfect to be created by humans?" EDIT: just going to assume yes and fix the post. Feel free to revert if you think I misconstrued your question. That said, this is still rather non-constructive as a question. It seems like the only real answer is no if you are talking about actual (absolute) perfection, and if you are talking about anything less than it simply becomes a matter of how you want to define it... –  stoicfury Aug 17 '12 at 2:04
It depends on your definition of perfection. To my eyes and ears, Beethoven's Ninth, Botticelli's Primavera are perfect. –  p.a. Aug 17 '12 at 7:38
@DiegoDD - See the problem is, as Joseph points out, that the guidelines of the StackExchange network strongly discourage polling/opinion gathering type questions. We expect questions with concrete answers (or as close as we can get with philosophy), rather than simply starting some sort of discussion. –  stoicfury Aug 17 '12 at 17:32
What does perfect mean? –  mixedmath Aug 17 '12 at 18:33
@mixedmath: The question stipulates "something flawless for its intended reason and unable to fail?" –  Michael Dorfman Aug 27 '12 at 15:42
show 7 more comments

7 Answers

I have no way of knowing for sure, but I've studied philosophy pretty extensively and two different works came to mind in reading your question.

I think there's a good chance your professor may have been alluding to Hume On Miracles from Enquiry into Human Understanding. You can read about it here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/ . The basic idea is that miracles can't exist because we redefine our understanding of the laws of nature to accommodate any "miraculous" event when new empirical evidence proves that a miracle is possible. Its not difficult to see how this could be extrapolated to humans and perfection. (If a person did it, then we have evidence that an imperfect being did it, so it can't be as perfect as if a perfect being did it, etc.)

The other work is Sartre's Being and Nothingness. He describes the human condition as trying to be God and necessarily failing. Understanding this requires delving into Sartre's existential ontology, but I found a resource that gives a decent overview of how this might relate to your question (based on his Existentialism as a Humanism lecture). Link: http://philosophy.csusb.edu/~tmoody/Sartre,%20Existentialism%20is%20a%20Humanism.htm

Once again, this answer is speculative, but I hope these references help you gain insight to something that's probably been nagging you for a while

share|improve this answer
Thanks! That is closer to what i was hopping as an "answer" to the question. –  DiegoDD Sep 11 '12 at 21:24
@DiegoDD, Glad I could help. The only way to know for sure what your teacher was referring to is to look him up and give him a call. My BA is in philosophy so I've been exposed to a lot of different thinkers' ideas and these are the ones that came to mind. –  smartcaveman Sep 11 '12 at 23:17
add comment

As others have have already asked, what is your definition of perfection? It's a big question, especially when you ask whether humans can create anything which is perfect.

It's useful to start with a little bit of etymology. "Perfection" comes from the Latin "perfectio" meaning "finished". But what does it mean for something to be finished? Things are what they are, but what does it mean for something to be "finished"? In fact, does it have any meaning at all?

Aristotle's answer revolves around the notions of finality or final causality. Aristotle distinguished living things from non-living things in that living things contain the cause of their own motion (or change) while other things do not, requiring an external cause to produce motion in them. Living things change in such a way that appears to lead towards something, a final end (telos), and so the motion of living things appears to be a realization of that finality and thus the acting of an organism in such a way as to reach perfection. Now while modern biology remains silent about finality, it is often the case that final cause is denied by many biologists because of philosophical developments that influenced the scientific revolution. If we deny finality, we must do away with any objective understanding of perfection as Aristotle understood it.

Your question concerns itself not with living things but with artifacts (unless you want to include genetic engineering, but it is not an important case deserving special treatment here, as I hope you'll see, by virtue of the above argument, and the one following). Here we must recognize the distinction between the different things that we mean when we use the word "creation", and they are: generation, mutation and creation. Briefly, generation is understood as begetting, giving birth, and so is the procreative act of life. Mutation is the changing of something, reordering preexisting matter into new forms and configurations. The final term, creation, something the Greeks did not understand because they understood the Universe to be eternal, is creation out of nothing ("creatio ex nihilo"). Clearly, then, the "creation" of artifacts is neither creation in the strict sense, nor is it generation. This leaves us with mutation. It conforms to our common sense notions: we take preexisting things and change them, refashioning them into new things.

Now since only living things have in themselves their final cause, and artifacts are the products of human action, it follows that the finality of an artifact must rest in the mind of the artist. The artist imposes a form, through his actions, on preexisting things in order to realize an end. I would argue that final causality cannot be imposed on a thing per se, but rather can be that which causes and orders actions in such a way that it produces something which conforms to it. Given that, the object can neither be perfect nor imperfect in itself but only in relation to the end in the mind of the artist. The questions now are: can an idea in the mind of an artist ever be perfect, or only an approximation? And, can a thing ever perfectly conform to that idea in the mind of an artist which we call the end? I argue that we only deal with approximations, which may be at least a partial consequence of our own imperfection.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I suppose we can define something perfect as "of complete/infinite quality".

Sometimes quality will be deterministic and finite. In a factory a new product can be considered perfect if it succeeds at all the tasks it has to succeed to. "Does the screw have a 0.3mm tolerance?" If so, then we can say it's perfect. This is a practical approach and probably not what you were looking for.

Since the word perfect is almost always described in a aesthetical sense, this further complicates the matter. In this case quality is not deterministic. When talking about the perfect song/piece of music, we first would have to know how to measure quality. Which we obviously don't. The best we can is offer very rough estimation, which would already have incorporated taste and musical aptitude. And we would still face the infinite nature of musical quality.

Will bolt ever run a perfect 100m? No, because someone can always go faster... We humans like to say/think so, because of the sensation that comes with it. It's the closest to a perfect run, so for now, we could consider it perfect. (Let's ignore the limitations of the human body for this example.)

I personally don't believe any piece of music is of absolute perfection.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If the question was "is it possible for a human to create something perfect" I would first answer no, but this question is asking is it possible for humans to create something perfect to which may answer would be ... maybe.

One human alone can't create life for example but two humans with different genders can.

All humans are imperfect but two or more working together in the right combination can be perfect.

The other problem is everything in creation as we understand it cannot exist forever in the state that it currently exists at this moment in time. Even our Sun will die one day, but the energy that created it will go on but in a different form.

So maybe a single human can create something perfect for a limited time ... if of course time actually exists.

Now people will say of course time exists, well ok then that's good, so what is the smallest possible measurement of time then? We know it's not 1 second for example, so is it half a second? a quarter? How many times can you divide before you get the smallest number? It can't be infinity because how could there possibly be an infinite amount of time between 0 and 1 seconds? you could never count from 0 to 1 if the smallest measurement of time was infinity. 0 0.000000000...

So either time doesn't exist or there actually is a smallest possible measurement of time in which everything moves forward ... well actually it turns out that time is relative and everything in the universe moves along its own time line at different speeds. So our whole understanding of time is completely wrong and not as simple as most of us first thought.

So getting back to the original question, the answer is yes humans can create something perfect, but it won't stay perfect forever.

share|improve this answer
add comment

No. Creating a perfect object would be akin to creating a universal—like a perfect circle. But there is no way to create a perfect circle; if you zoom in enough to any actual circle, you'd find bumpiness. A fun description of near perfection is the design of Gravity Probe B. They were able to create spheres 1.5" across with surface never further than 40 atomic layers from a perfect sphere. Close, but not perfect.

When it comes to physical creations, we would ultimately be thwarted by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: there's just inherent 'noise' when you zoom in far enough. Unless you define perfection to fit this kind of noise, humans will never be able to create it.

When it comes to formal systems—creations of pure thought—we will likely forever by plagued by Gödel's incompleteness theorems, which show that once we've accepted basic arithmetic in our formal system, it won't be possible to prove the system consistent and complete. Stated differently, no set of axioms that we can discover will be able to prove every true statement. There is no perfect set of axioms, contra Hilbert's Program.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I am a novice and amateur in the field of philosophy. And my answer may not be supported by facts. These are only my personal views.

Ultimate Perfection: Its “limbo” from which due to some sort of entropy “The Beginning “ or the “Mother Big Bang” happened and the universe got its birth including “The Space” (Space is often considered pre-existing , but I differ on it). And limbo is mother of all sciences. And existing laws of science could vary when subjected to continuous changing dimensions of time, space and other new or varying physical factors.

Actual Perfection: In material world if a matter obeys the rule of universe and act accordingly, it is deemed to be perfect. For e.g. in atomic world the sub particles behaves in a pertained manner as it has to unless it is subjected to external pressures. So in material world we can conclude everything is perfect but can be subjected to change. This theory can be challenged by quantum mechanics and uncertainty principle but I believe the uncertainty principle may be due to external uncertainty or continuous micro level change it the outside environment of the isolated atoms.

Relative Perfection: This form is of mental world. Here some want apples to be oranges and others want oranges to be apples depending on their need, demand and comfort. Perfection is more of innate quality. And by applying some pressure on the matter we try to satisfy our need. So mental perfection is a perception of perfection.

Degree of Perfection: As a friend above gave an example with screw, If the screw was a made of perfection the how difficult it would be to fix it but the screw needs 0.3 mm tolerance to be a perfect one. But if satisfies the customers need in satisfactory manner, it is perfect for him

share|improve this answer
@Joseph Weissman, as I couldnot fit my answer as comment in previous post. I posting it as another answer. –  Aneosh Nov 21 '12 at 20:13
add comment

what my sense tells, everything is perfect in its on capacity. Imperfection happens only when you compare what you feel better. Imperfection can happen only in thoughts not in material world. If u separate material world from mental world ..................Every thing is """"""PERFECT""""".

share|improve this answer
Could you develop this a little further? This doesn't really seem to answer the question... –  Joseph Weissman Nov 20 '12 at 22:26
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.