Michael Stuart Kelly Posted May 29, 2006 Share Posted May 29, 2006 Moral perfectionby Michael Stuart KellyOne of the silliest notions promoted by orthodox Objectivists is that a person can become morally perfect. This statement is a complete inversion of values.The English language has a strong limitation with the all inclusive verb "to be." I never really understood this until I had to learn Portuguese. In that language, there are two verbs for "to be": "estar" and "ser." Estar denotes a temporary state of being and ser means a permanent one.Thus a person is a man or woman (ser) and he is at the movies (estar). This took some getting used to, but after I did, many things became much easier to identify and categorize.One could ask, is moral perfection a permanent state or a temporary one? If it is a permanent state, one concludes that a human being should be born that way. But he isn't.If moral perfection needs to be learned to become permanent, this smacks so much of Christianity that I am surprised the parallel has not been more clearly seen and exposed for the dogma it is. Learning to become morally perfect means that a human being is born with original sin and must strive to become saved. (One is born morally lacking and must strive to become morally perfect.) How much more Christian can you get?Like I said, this is silly coming from Objectivists.If a permanent state of perfection needs to be identified, look at man's life. Human life qua human life is perfect. A human being cannot be more perfect than he is by his very existence. He is what he is, period. That is a permanent fact, not a temporary one. (Even though his life has a limited duration, his life is permanently perfect for that duration. That is his nature.)So what does moral perfection mean? If morality is a code of values to guide man's actions, it must mean perfect actions, not a perfect existence (which is a metaphysical, not ethical, issue). It must mean actions that are in perfect harmony with man's life according to his essential nature. I know of no human being on earth who has omniscient control over all of his future actions or even over his essential nature. There are way too many variables and types of actions he must perform while he is alive. Actions under volitional control (which are the only ones that can be moral) must be chosen instant by instant and the different facets of his nature must be studied to be understood. For instance, many aspects of man's nature change over the course of his life cycle. Many of the needs of a child are not the same as the needs of a healthy adult or the elderly. A child needs care and education - and he needs to learn how to become rational. An adult needs self-responsibility and the full exercise of his rationality. The elderly need constant medical treatment and a means of dealing with diminishing organic capacity. Each stage of life decrees the need for specific moral principles that are not applicable to the other stages.There is no easy way out of the need to think and choose every waking moment. There is no way on earth to make the very act of living automatic without giving up volition and becoming a mental vegetable.It is possible for a man to make a morally perfect choice, though. He can do that time and time again. And he should strive to understand what a morally perfect choice means, time and time again. That is a temporary state during his existence. But it is not possible for him to transform himself into a a permanent morally perfect anything. He is a human being with an already perfect life. He is not a code. His life generates the code, not vice-versa.Morality is based on human life as the standard of value. Reason exists to serve human life. According to the moral perfection model that is preached, human beings exist to become morally perfect, i.e., to serve reason. Reason does not exist to serve human life. This is a vicious anti-life code.Like I said, it is also silly coming from Objectivists.Rand's famous quote about not bothering to examine a folly, merely ask what it accomplishes, is pertinent here. What does the moral perfection model accomplish?That's easy. Deification of Rand, frustration and guilt. These are excellent means of keeping a flock in line. Those who wish to rule others or become a guru use moral perfection as a whip. And those who have a drive to give their lives over to a cause use moral perfection as an excuse to let others do their premise-level thinking. One thing is for sure: if a man decides to serve a code of lifelong moral perfection, he will ultimately end up serving a very morally imperfect somebody.So is moral perfection possible? It is on a temporary basis, act by chosen act. It is not possible as a permanent state of being. Striving and attaining, then striving and attaining again, over and over, is the nature of man. Just like sleeping and waking is.My advice is when you find someone who tells you that he knows the path to becoming morally perfect for the rest of your life, run. Immediately. He wants to control you - or he serves one who does. Notice that there is always a group involved. He wants his group to make your essential choices for you. If you don't believe it, make essential choices that are different than the ones he requires you to make over time and see what happens. But essential choices in your life are yours alone to make. They should stay yours. Morally, this is called individualism. And living on earth as a human being doesn't get any more perfect than that. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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