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Our panel of 90 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

We don't all agree that there is no such thing as a perfect line, and all the rest. A line, say from point P to point Q is easy to find, but we have to know what a line is. Take a comparison. A captain may instruct his helmsman to set a course to Q. It may be that the waves or the tides push the ship slightly off course here and there, but the course is set. Is it impossible for the captain to ask for the course to be set? Is it impossible to follow the course? And finally, is it impossible for the ship to arrive at the point Q? Maybe you think that there is no such point, because a point is not physical. But this isn't quite right. The thing that's important is that though the point does not extend into any of its dimensions, it can be located on a map using two dimensions, or in physical space using three.

Or again, compare the line to the direction. The fact that a direction is like a line itself is one-dimensional (though it is a vector not just a line) has no relevance to its reality.

The difficulty is that we allow distorting physical images to disrupt our thinking. To take a line from one point to another, as an architect might, is not a matter of painting a thick white line as on a tennis court. A line itself has only one dimension. But this concept of low dimensionality has nothing to do with whether or not the thing exists.

As to the perfect person, the usual sense given to such phrases is a moral one. And here the difficulty evaporates. There is nothing contradictory about a person who is without fault morally. In Christian theology there actually is such a person.

Aesthetic perfection is perhaps harder to understand, because it is harder to conceive of what an aesthetic flaw is. Still, we operate with the concept perfectly happily. 'What a perfect day!' we exclaim. We know what we mean, and it can be a true proposition. 'Hooray! This day is perfect!' or something that.

The origin of the word "perfect" is in the Latin perfectus, which is the past participle of perficere, to make perfect or whole. The sense of "flawless" is relatively new, appearing for the first time in the mid 19c with John Tyndall.

The idea you propose that the "inner self" is ones perfection or completion is a very interesting one. Is your thought that it is also flawless?

One point to bear in mind is that there is a sense of "perfect" in which it means a high order of excellence. Does perfection itself have to be perfect? Apparently not in all senses.