ON PERFECTION: CONCLUSION

Ah ha! A reference to a Polish philosopher who wrote extensively on the notion of perfection that no bodies correspond to perfection in reality but physics and chemistry treats reality “as if” it conforms to models (but reality does not). That is a step closer to the direction I’m looking towards. (Also: I’m happy my scanner came with PaperPort – haven’t had that program a VERY long time and its OCR is still great)

DIALECTICS AND HUMANISM
No. 2/1981
Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz
ON PERFECTION: CONCLUSION
The foregoing deliberations indicate that the term “perfection,” used in many fields, has different meanings in them. There is one term, but there are many concepts of perfection.
A. It has its own special meaning in mathematics, where it is simply a proper name for certain numbers, a name that expresses their uncommon properties.
B. In physics and chemistry it likewise has a special meaning: it designates a model that serves to describe bodies, although in reality there are no bodies that correspond to it precisely. It is a helpful conceptual construct.
C. At other times, the concept is used consistently with the etymology (perfect= finished) and the original meaning. That is perfect which lacks nothing: this is how the term is used in ontology (a perfect being), as also in ethics (a perfect life, a perfect character) and likewise in medicine (perfect health). In these fields, the sense of the concept varies: it is understood either as ideal model, as measure, or as actual approximation to the model.
D. That is also called perfect, which completely achieves its objective. So it is in biology (someone has perfect vision), but also in technology (a watch that is neither slow nor fast). Precisely these two examples -vision and watch – were operated with by Christian Wolff, the philosopher who took the most exacting interest in the concept of perfection. And there obtains here the same duality as above: still, perfection is conceived of less as fictional model, and more as actual approximation to it.
E. That is perfect, which completely fulfills its functions. In this sense, one speaks in social discourse about a perfect (“complete” or accomplished) engineer or carpenter. In a similar sense the term is used in art criticism, when there is talk about perfect technique in a picture or about the perfect likeness of a portrait. And once again: either as ideal model or as approximate realization of it.
F. In aesthetics and the general theory of art, perfection is ascribed to that which is fully harmonious, built in accordance with a single principle. In this sense one speaks about the perfection of the Parthenon or the Odyssey; Palladio gave a similar description of perfection.
All these ways of comprehending perfection (B—F) differ among themselves, but are kindred. And all oscillate between ideal and approximation.
Perfection is also spoken of colloquially in a broader and looser sense that is not accommodated by those listed above. These are, rather, cases of confusion of perfection with other high terms of praise.

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