“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway
In the last two blogs I took on the first of the four components of purpose at the level of the self, the objective of a good life. Today we look examine briefly the second component, self-perfection.
In the earlier section on the meaning of life, Virtue and the Self,1 I examined in some detail what are in fact the components of self-perfection: self-discipline, selflessness, self-knowledge, self-improvement, and self-actualization. Obviously attention to and continuing efforts in these five areas constitute the process of self-perfection as I outlined in the synopsis of that section.2
Perfectibility is a multidimensional process: (1) metaphysical, a timeless purity, (2) functional, the ability to complete tasks perfectly, (3) aesthetic, referencing internal order and harmony, (4) ethical, with regard to motives, and (5) theological, meaning free of sin, or for the secular being free of vice or error.
Given the many components and dimensions of self-perfection and the unlikelihood of complete success, the purported goal of self-perfection is perhaps more accurately seen as the project to make oneself as good as one can be in all respects – health, abilities, composure, virtue, knowledge, judgement, and spirituality. As John Passmore tells us, it comes from being united with one’s own true nature and with nature at large, and from the wisdom to see that there is nothing in one’s nature to prevent one from becoming a better person than one is already.3
Next we look at individual purpose from the vantage point of the desire for happiness.
1See blogs on this site titled Virtue and The Self Parts I – VIII dated 11/13/20, 11/23/20, 11/25/20, 11/27/20, 11/30/20, 12/2/20, 12/4/20, 12/7/20, 12/9/20, 12/11/20, 12/14/20, 12/16/20, 12/18/20 and 12/21/20.
2See blog titled Virtue and the Self – Part VIII dated 12/21/2020.
3Passmore, John, Perfectibility of Man in Wiener, Philip P, (editor), Dictionary of the History of Ideas Volume III, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1973, page 475.