The definition of "Perfect" is having all of the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics. Simply put, when something is perfect, it is as good as it can possibly be. Alternatively, perfect can be defined as having no flaws.

If there is only one possible option for something, then that option must be perfect since it is impossible for it to be any better. For it to have a flaw, we would need to compare it to something else that does not have said flaw.

Therefore, is our existence itself not perfect?

Please don't get 'existence' confused with 'life'. One might say, "But my life isn't perfect. So, how can you say existence is perfect?"

Your existence itself involves making your life better or worse. Therefore, if your life is flawed, your existence is still perfect. There is no other option to compare it to. It cannot be any better or worse.

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    I'm confused because existence is itself only a question of instantiation in reality. Are you proposing that existence has "desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics"? I see existence as a sort of second-order flag regarding the relation of an object or predicate to reality. Tell me: what does a perfectly existing thing have more than that which exists unperfectly? – stoicfury Dec 18 '13 at 18:56
  • The perfectly existing thing has no competition. It has no desire to be anything else. It does not even have the capability of being anything better if there truly is only this one option. Perhaps knowing this can bring a sense of tranquility to those who feel overwhelmed by their own existence and are continually striving for "better". It may persuade one to realize that they are currently in the best possible way. Thus, could Nirvana, the ideal condition of rest, harmony, stability, or joy, then be achieved? I don't have the answer. Maybe one of you does ;) – Matt Rusinek Dec 18 '13 at 19:30
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    Hmm, that doesn't really answer my question. :\ – stoicfury Dec 19 '13 at 3:21
  • @stoicfury You can substitute "desirable" with "required" here if you'd like. Existence requires something, does it not? The second question you posed has us moving away from the central focus. Do you agree that if there is only one option then that option must be perfect since there is nothing else it can possibly be and, thus, cannot be compared? Can we agree on a definition of perfect that leaves out the observer's opinion? ie: Perfect = the best something can possibly be. – Matt Rusinek Dec 19 '13 at 16:56
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    I don't understand what it means to have a "required" attribute. Regarding the second question, I think it's in fact very important. This is because it points out that existence is not "only one option", it's either existence or non-existence. Because we have no basis as to whether existence is better than non-existence, we can't claim one is "perfect" while the other is not. – stoicfury Dec 20 '13 at 3:00

I think this boils down to an ultimately unenlightening language game, though it may take some thought to conclude as much.

Suppose we restrict perfection to things that exist. Suppose that we now knock over a glass of milk on the floor and have milk and broken glass all over the floor. This state of affairs is then "perfect" because although there was a glass with milk in a preferred configuration a little while ago, there is not any more; and although there are other glasses and there is other milk (and milk in glasses), those glasses are not this glass. So our broken glass and spilled milk all over the floor is perfect.

But what have we gained beyond simply saying that the broken glass and milk all over the floor exists? Pretty much nothing. The point of language is to communicate, and we have taken a colloquial concept of "perfect" and turned it into a meaningless identifier that is synonymous with existence.

Let's not do that. There are better ways to use language.

So, no, our existence is not perfect since, for instance, we can imagine an existence without influenza which would be superior and completely consistent with physical laws (though not the entire history of life on earth). At least, if we use the word "perfect" in this way, it will facilitate communication about such concepts. (Relevant if, for instance, we manage to eradicate influenza as we have smallpox.)

You might then say: aha! But I didn't mean to allow possible existences when I said "existence". I meant to say this unique existence only or the state of existence instead of non-existence so all this talk of non-influenza is silly. In that case, the problem is appling discriminating modifiers to a unique entity. The unique me-how-I-am-right-now is the best, worst, fastest, slowest, silliest, utterly perfect, completely imperfect etc. etc. me-how-I-am-right-now.

Again, this is, upon reflection, just playing an unhelpful language game. Yes, of course, if your set contains a single element, for any ordering O, that element is an upper bound for O. Unless you are trying to be deliberately confusing, however, it is better to simply refrain from using language that implies multiple options when there is only one. In particular, when one uses the word "perfect" and "existence" together, the implication is that possible existences may be considered.

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  • Thanks Rex! I may be missing something here, but doesn't one's ability to imagine an existence without influenza require one to have existed in the first place? – Matt Rusinek Dec 19 '13 at 2:53
  • @MattRusinek - You can't imagine something without existing, it is true. Why is this observation relevant? – Rex Kerr Dec 19 '13 at 7:42
  • I Desagree with last paragraph. Existence without influenza has no meaning at all. You probably meant life. – Natxo Dec 19 '13 at 9:13
  • @Natxo - By "existence" I mean "state of affairs where we exist". How is this meaningless? – Rex Kerr Dec 19 '13 at 16:01
  • @RexKerr because that is not existence as such. That is life. – Natxo Dec 19 '13 at 16:08

Instead to use the word "perfect", you should use the word "optimized". I will support that, by nature, the entities which have life, is optimized in many levels in order to achieve survivability.

In flora and fauna (actually, the structure of the DNA in every live being) are surviving the strongest, the most flexible, compatible etc entities, and the next generation is optimized based on the current environment. So, the DNA (remember, i refer to the live beings) is getting modifying from generation to generation in order to correspond to the current needs.

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Leibniz is often quoted as saying that 'this world is the best of all possible worlds'. This is often thought to follow directly follow from his theology - as God is perfect his creation is also perfect. One can qualify this a bit, but in essence it remains correct.

However this doesn't mean that any one being in that world has a perfect existence, or believes that it is so. One may argue that a part less than the whole must be less than perfect.

Therefore, is our existence itself not perfect?

Although you ruled out thinking of life instead of existence; I think that this is misleading. Heidegger thought of existence as Being, that is being-in-the-world, which means living in the world. Our Being is different from the being of a rock.

So - No, I don't have to think that my existence is perfect. And neither does someone during hard labour in Stalins gulag, or some-one whos just survived a tsunami; or some-one doing a tedious job in a factory.

If there is only one possible option for something, then that option must be perfect since it is impossible for it to be any better.

True enough, but the argument from perfection generally goes for someone who is in a position to create something. God is in a position of creating the world, and he has many possible ones to choose from. On a more prosaic level, a potter has a choice of creating a good pot or a better one.

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  • @Rusinek: Sure - I agreed as much in my answer; I'm not so much confusing the two terms, but arguing that its illegitimate to separate the two in this way. Rather like the 'smile of the cheshire cat' separated from the cheshire cat itself - which is a nice piece of literary-philosophical writing in Alice of Wonderland, but when it comes to our own Being, in the proper sense. You might say I'm declining to answer the question in the terms you're offering, if you prefer. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 19 '13 at 4:11
  • @Rusinek: If you think of life as essence, then the relationship between the essence and existence has had a long history, which I'm not really familiar with; but you seem to be making the two categories entirely independent and separate. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 19 '13 at 4:14
  • I am merging rather than separating the two. Existence allows for life to occur. Existence > Life. Life is a part of existence. Life takes many forms. Existence has only one. It is a whole that is lacking nothing. Thoughts? – Matt Rusinek Dec 19 '13 at 17:25

According to your definition, it is. That is a matter of making the world fit the rule. Everything fits that rule, at least the way you read it, without exception. (Some of the readers seem to have construed the definition in such a way as to make it not fit.)


Perhaps this becomes more interesting through a contrast with an older meaning of perfection.

Perfect, in philosophy, perfectio, can mean, e.g., the ripe apple (nothing far-fetched, simple ripeness). For the reason that according to nature, the apple tree is doing what is most-natural to it, when the profit of its existence is to bring forth the ripe apple.

The nature of a thing, if it finds the right circumstances, will use existence in order to bring forth the telos of that nature, its plan for that thing. In the same way, the medieval philosophers often would says something like, reason, when freed from apatite is perfect.Reason is the essence of man, so that in freeing it to its ripeness, man is said thereby to be perfected. Perhaps with the additional sense that free reason, the perfectio of man, is to go on to work out the problems left latent in nature as a whole, to bring about the Utopia.

Talk of perfection, in the older sense, presuppose special purpose. That life is meaningful.

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I think that is meaningless to ask about the perfection of any attribute itself. Perfection can only be measured in things.

For example is the colour of this drawing perfect? I'm not asking about the stroke of it. It may be awful, but the colour it has is as perfect as any other. And i would have no drawing without colour.

So, being existence an attribute, anything that exists, exists perfectly.

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  • Great answer, because you either exist perfectly, or you don't exist at all. – what is sleep Dec 18 '13 at 18:01
  • Even though I think existence is not an attribute (as Kant describes), I agree that predicates themselves can also not have the concept of perfection applied to them. You seem to allow it in some rudimentary sense, but it seems patently obvious to me that we have no real basis for which to say whether existence is more perfect (or "better") than non-existence. When I say out loud to myself, "perfect existence", I'm immediately aware that perfection adds nothing to the concept of existence, and also I chuckle because it sounds funny. xD But yeah, we seem to agree on that. :) – stoicfury Dec 18 '13 at 18:54
  • @stoicfury yes, i agree that existence might not be an attribute in strict sense, but you got the point of what i mean. Anyway, to prove me wrong is as 'easy' as naming something which existence is more perfect than another's. – Natxo Dec 18 '13 at 23:22

Basically I disagree because your existence can be compared to a mental construct (some alternative potential existence) you don't need another actual existence to compare it to. There is one instance of your life, but that does not mean what happened was the only possible option... and theories of parallel universes even imagine many paralell existence at the same time in parallel worlds.

Henceforth if it can be compared it can potentially be enhanced (perfected) (or course I should say it could have been, because present existence is a fact of the past, too late to change it).

Also desirability of lack of flaws is an expression of a point of view. Things are as they are but they are rated as good/bad flawed/unflawed by the subjectivity of some observer using a scale of values (if there is some absolute scale of value is a totaly different subject). Perfection from one point of view may not be perfection from another.

Etimology of the word perfect may enlighten us somehow with another possible angle:

Etimologicaly perfected means completed, finished.

Henceforth nothing unfinished, including a life, should be considered actually perfect at more than some approximation level (it's perfect because you see no way to enhance it from your perspective, not because it's actually unflawed from another point of view). It could also be the other way around, something perceived as unperfect could be perfect for someone else.

Actual perfection can exist only when some end is clearly defined, and when the end is reached the result - whatever it is - is always perfect.

Of course this meaning is boring and perfection because you see no way to improve something (and then you declare it "finished") looks much more valuable.

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