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Perfection is Subjective

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/1/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,227 times Debate No: 39812
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
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I would like to argue the concept of 'Perfection' and whether or not the definition and/or fulfillment requirements are subjective.

I will be arguing that they are not subjective, and are in fact immutable concepts that have not changed since the very concept of 'perfection' as an entity was understood.

Pro will argue that 'perfection' as an entity is entirely and/or at least in part subjective, and dependent upon varying perspectives (whether by person, or over time).

First round is acceptance. Cheers!


I accept, and look forward to a good debate. May the best man win.
Debate Round No. 1


First, I would like to define my meaning when I use the term 'perfection':
  • The total absence of flaws

Defining 'Perfection'
I would like to take this a little further, however. The ideas of perfection have been bounced around for millenia, but I think it would be helpful to take a look at the roots of the word 'perfection' itself to further clarify this idea of an absence of flaws. Our word 'perfect' derives from the Latin 'perfectus' which means "completed, finished". It is a word without quantifiers or qualifiers, and is used in the context of completeness, not varying degrees of goodness.

With this in mind, I would like to turn to Aristotle's idea of perfection and build upon it. He postulated that a thing is perfect if it fully fulfills the requirements which is was designed for. So, for example, a pen can be deemed 'perfect' if it allows individuals to engage in writing. Whether or not the ink flows fluidly or the colour is undesirable is irrelevent, as long as it is still capable of fulfilling its duty.

This idea fits in with the very etymology of the word itself. The pen is "complete" and there is nothing more that need be done to it in order for it to fulfill its intended purpose.

Taking Out The Subjective
It's important to now outline why this definition can in no way be subjective. Suppose I have two pens, one of which writes fluidly with the colour that I prefer, and the other requires more pressure and is in an undesirable colour. I prefer the former pen, and I deem it to be better than the latter pen because it's a more pleasureable experience to write with. However, both pens, provided that they are both capable of writing, are perfect in that they fulfill their intended purpose and are complete in doing so.

In this capacity, only degrees of good or bad are subjective qualities. If the pen were unable to fulfill its duty to write at any point, it would then be considered "flawed" and therefore imperfect.


VampyIceMan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Well...I thought this would be an interesting debate topic.


Sorry about last round. I lost track of time with homework and such, so I missed the round.
In your definition of perfection, I agree. The total absence of flaws. With that said, each person has a different standard for perfection, and I would like to offer two alternate definitions.
Total Perfection- The total absence of flaws
Earthly Perfection-The closest humans can get to perfection
The reason I give two definitions instead of one is because of Plato, who believed in ideal forms. (i.e. there are many examples of pens, but there is one ideal pen.) Total perfection is objective. But since total perfection is impossible to reach, the standards are left to us to decide what is closest to perfection. This is why perfection on earth is subjective: each person has a different standard of perfection. With your example of the two pens, one student might prefer a pen that is fluid and a certain color ink, while another thinks of a pen with a different ink color, and not too fluid. In other words, you can't please everybody.
Again, sorry about last round. But here is my argument, and yes, if I can get my points in on time, this will be an interesting debate topic.
Debate Round No. 3


Your argument makes a glaring error here; the definition that you have given for Earthly Perfection isn't perfection.

You have agreed that I have rightly defined 'perfection' as: 'a total absence of flaws'. As such, what you have now defined as 'earthly perfection' is not perfection at all because it necessesarily includes flaws. In stucturing your argument this way, you have presented an enormous implicit contradiction.

Plato certainly had some good ideas about many things, but his philosophy on forms has been widely criticized. I would like to offer to you the main reason I see it as erroneous:

He has added qualifiers to perfection, something which cannot be done if perfection is to mean a wholly complete and flawless entity. What you have defined as 'earthly perfection' is actually not perfection at all, it is nothing more than varying states of effectiveness.

For example, let's take 3 pens:

Pen 1: Writes fluidly, great longevity, grippable, contains butons to choose preffered ink colour.
Pen 2: Writes somewhat fluidly, moderate longevity, comes in only blue and black.
Pen 3: Requires pressure in order to write, contains little ink, comes in only orange.

Consider This Scenario:
Pen 1, by your theory, would be considered to have 'earthly perfection', I would assume, as it is the closest to what most would consider perfect qualities. The other two pens are imperfect. Here is where your argument falls flat:
Suppose a very strong person tried to write with Pen 1 and Pen 2 and found that he was unable to contain the pressure he was exerting on the pens, and therefore creating smudges and smears causing letters to be illegible when he wrote. Pen 3, on the other hand, flowed for him at optimal speed, and he was able to effectively write lists and all manners of other useful information. So Pen 3, the one that most people would not even be able to use at all (they couldn't see the orange ink, they constantly found the ink flow stopping, it lasted only long enough to get through half of their projects, etc).

The problem here is that none of these pens are perfect. They all contain flaws. And none of them can even be considered earthly perfect, because by your level of subjectivity, it requires that it be the closest humans as a whole can get to perfection. None of these are the closest to perfection for humans as a whole, as per your definion. In fact, they are all riddled with flaws in different circumstances as we saw in the last scenario. So this simply means that for the strong man, Pen 1 worst in fullfilling his needs, and Pen 2 better at fullfilling his needs, but Pen 3 best at fulfilling his needs. We don't equate 'best' with perfect, for the very reason that just because something is best for a particular person, doesn't mean it isn't riddled with flaws, or completely fails for a different person. Perfection needs to be much broader than a qualified definition which you have given.

Because perfection is a state of completeness and an absence of flaws, it must be something more than a qualified version of 'worse, good, bad, better, etc'. So, it must be something that instead, cannot be qualified. The state of completeness implies that nothing more may be done in order for it to fulfill its assigned task; it either fulfills it or it does not (it is either perfect or imperfect). All 3 pens fufill their designed task of writing, thus, they are all perfect, but subjectively, they are either better or worse for a specific person.


One thing I have to argue: Your definition of perfection, when it comes to pens, is that if a pen can write, it is perfect.
Socrates: So the third pen is perfect, because it writes, correct?
Student: Yes, it is.
Socrates: But most people can't use this pen, despite the fact that it can write?
Student: That is the case.
Socrates: So most people can't use it, yet you deem it perfect?
Student: So it is.
Socrates: And perfection is a lack of flaws?
Student: Yes
Socrates: Now, if someone didn't like the way something worked, would it have flaws?
Student: Well, that depends. If the pen had a certain color ink that wasn't desirable, then it wouldn't be a flaw. But if something were to perform it's task poorly, then it would be a flaw.
Socrates: So if something were to do it's job poorly, it would be a flaw, yes?
Student: I suppose so.
Socrates: So this means the third pen is not perfect, because it performs poorly, meaning it has a flaw. Is this what you are saying?
Student: No, no, not at all!
The problem is that perfection is about "worse, good, better, best." If the only qualification for a pen to be perfect is that it writes, but most people can't even use this perfect pen to finish a test, then this is hardly perfect or ideal, or even a practical pen. But its perfect for the USER that is able to write with it well. But you say that it is either perfect or imperfect, in that it can either perform it's task or not. You don't even go into how well or poorly it does it's task, just that it does it's task is enough.
Let's use another example: A toilet. Based on your first argument, the toilet is perfect if it does it's job; the toilet flushes the contents down. But let's give it a flaw; not a functioning flaw but an unpleasant flaw. Let's say that it spews out half the water into the person's face when they bend down to flush it. This is unpleasant. This is unsanitary. This is, dare I say it, imperfect. But by your definition, this is still a perfect toilet, because, lo and behold, all the other unpleasant stuff we crammed in there is going to the place that the stuff in our toilets go.
Let's try another example: A human. A perfect human is one that performs the tasks it needs to perform. Since there isn't a way to really succeed in life, for this argument, we must assign it a task: reproduction. If a human can reproduce, then it is a perfect human. But like the toilet, we can also give this human (I'll name him George) a flaw. So little George is a brat who does nothing his parents tell him to do, runs every red light, is an alcoholic, and has committed three homicides. But is he perfect or not? He has a perfectly functioning boy part, and died in the chair before ever getting a STD, so yes, he is a perfect man.
As unpleasant an example as this is, this seems to be your argument. That perfection is a total lack of flaws, but the more particular definition is that it does what it was meant to do.
This is my final argument. I hope you had fun, as I certainly did. Have a blessed day.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Emily77 5 years ago
Essentially, within the context, it is clear that a flaw is a quality that renders an entity unable to fulfill its intended action. Secondly, perfection is fulfilling a specified task. Your arguments about, the toilet, say, do not take this into account. The person who obtained this toilet probably did so for keeping waste out of their home. If it is spewing everywhere before flushing, it is not fulfilling its task.

I don't think you properly explained the glaring contradiction between perfection being a total absence of flaws and it being a qualitative concept (good, better, best, etc). There is a huge logical flaw here.

It's ironic that you believe perfection is objective, because I actually believe the opposite. Maybe the debate would have been more engaging if we had taken opposite sides. Let's take another crack at it, shall we?
Posted by VampyIceMan 5 years ago
Two things I should mention for your sake, Emily77
1) This last argument is against mainly a straw man. This relies on the fact that you never gave a definition of a flaw
2) I personally agree that perfection is objective, but I reject your reason why it's objective. Unless you believe it's subjective, you tried to argue that perfect is simply fulfilling the task it performs. I think perfection is total absence of flaws, and by that I mean TOTAL. This debate failed to define imperfection. If we could have done this, then it would have been a better debate.
Posted by Emily77 5 years ago
Apologies. I should have been more clear about the definition, but I in fact meant the definition of perfection to be a component of the debate. By no means did I include anything about theological perfection, though if it can be used to bolster my opponents case than by all means, he may use it.

If I were to define 'perfection' by the parameters based on my argument, then it wouldn't be an engaging debate. I wanted to debate the concept held in general about perfection, which includes some debate about the definition as well.

Hopefully my first argument will clarify things a bit.
Posted by MysticEgg 5 years ago
Agreed. If you say perfection is "cannot be better", then, in context, everything is perfect. Please define perfection.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago
This debate has a lot of potential, although I fully agree with Chrys that you need to define "perfection".
Posted by Chrysippus 5 years ago
Sorry, you're going to have to define what you mean by "perfection." Are you referring to some Platonic ideal, or some religious concept, or are you talking about a dictionary definition of the word itself?

Because that make an enormous difference. Theological perfection is a bit fuzzy; I've never heard two people define it exactly the same way. The perfection of the Ideal Types is clearer, but refers to an undefinable concept; the Types themselves do not exist in any material sense, and have never been observed. Your guess is as good as mine as to what they are like. The meaning of the word "perfection" is obviously well established at the moment, but it has changed over the years as the English language has evolved - and doubtless is not finished changing.

Not sure what you are going for here. Try defining your terms and making an argument for your case.
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