October 15, 2013 at 9:07 pm #19172sentilopisParticipant
The very idea of absolute perfection is in every way self-contradictory. The state of absolute perfection must be conceived as complete, final, and not exposed to any change. Change could only impair its perfection and transform it into a less perfect state; the mere possibility that a change can occur is incompatible with the concept of absolute perfection. But the absence of change—i.e., perfect immutability, rigidity and immobility–is tantamount to the absence of life. Life and perfection are incompatible, but so are death and perfection.
The living is not perfect because it is liable to change; the dead is not perfect because it does not live.
Mises states that to live is to be subject to change, which will strike out the possibility of “living” perfection, which convinces me in that point, but at the end he says that being dead is not perfect because it is not “living”, which baffles me.
I am in no way endorsing death as perfection, but supposing death is the absence of life and not subject to change, wouldn’t it be possible that there may be perfection in death?
Are I missing something here? Or are my assumptions wrong?October 26, 2013 at 1:54 am #19173dardnerMember
“The language of living and acting men can form comparatives and superlatives in comparing degrees. But absoluteness is not a degree; it is a limiting notion. The absolute is indeterminable, unthinkable and ineffable. It is a chimerical conception. There are no such things as perfect happiness, perfect men, eternal bliss. Every attempt to describe the conditions of a land of Cockaigne, or the life off the Angels, results in paradoxes. Where there are conditions, there are limitations and not perfection; there are endeavors to conquer obstacles, there are frustration and discontent.”
With no real expertise, my take on this is that he is pointing out the contradiction. The living are subject to change and therefore not absolute or complete. The dead can not change and is therefore limited.October 26, 2013 at 11:16 am #19174gerard.caseyParticipant
I believe Mises is making a general point about the logic of action.
We are moved to act because we are (relatively) dissatisfied with our present position and believe that by undertaking action A we can reach a more satisfactory position. The nature of the human condition is such that no matter what we have or what we can do, there is always more and better.
So, osgood401, while it’s true that, as you point out, ‘The living are subject to change and therefore [are] not absolute or complete], Mises isn’t only talking about death; what he is also rejecting is the idea that there is any perfect or complete state because in such a state there could, by definition, be nothing more perfect and so no reason to act.
Attempts to consider what life would be like in the presence of God alsmost always comes down to metaphors – the Beatific Vision, etc. Scripture openly admits that what a perfect state would be like is not something that we can currently conceive – ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love him.’
GCOctober 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm #19175david_konietzkoMember
We are moved to act because we are (relatively) dissatisfied with our present position and believe that by undertaking action A we can reach a more satisfactory position.
Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that we are moved to act because we believe that by undertaking action A we can reach a more satisfactory (future) position than the (future) position we would achieve without action A?December 14, 2013 at 9:48 pm #19176miljacicMember
“The very idea of absolute perfection is in every way self-contradictory… the dead is not perfect because it does not live.”
It seems to me that, for Mises, “perfection” is simply the perfection of an acting entity, perfection as a state that someone acting (in a human way) could or could not experience or at least conceive. It’s a book on human action, after all, so “the perfection of a pinball machine” would be just irrelevant and empty mental concept, as vapid as “perfection of the flying spaghetti monster”.
So “perfection in death” seems to stand outside of his very definition of the word “perfection” as used in the book. At least, that’s how I read it.
And, of course, a living person can not be perfect, even if our state would somehow miraculously become perfect for a millisecond, because life itself (us being alive) would push us out of it. We would need to become non-living to make life stop pushing us out of being perfect, but then we would be pushed out of the very definition of “perfection” by not being alive (to be human actors, if needed). So we can’t win, alas. The whole thing seems to boil down simply to “life on earth is, for humans, never perfect”.
This would also mean that the only way for, for example Buddhist monks, to potentially reach such “perfection”, would be to leave “human life on earth” by acting in a non-human way, that is, by living some fundamentally different life while staying alive on earth. Of course, they might potentially reach some other kind of perfection by simply dying to earth, but Mises wouldn’t care to cover that option, so he delineated his concept of “perfection” accordingly. At least, that’s how I read the book.
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