I`ve been askin` around on this, and talked to a 20-yearold fella at the hardware store the other day about it. His response is that if you grew up with ideals, they matter and have some value. If you didn`t, they don`t matter. It`s kind of like Trick-or-Treat, where if you never experienced it, you don`t miss it.
Lots of people think of an ideal as "the perfect" example of something--the template, or Plato`s "form." They get hung up in the "perfect" part of it, and figure that since nobody`s perfect, therefore, ideals are impossible.
But what about having something to strive toward, a goal or benchmark? So what if you never attain perfection? Isn`t it worth at least trying for it?
An ideal is indeed a perfect....something. It`s the perfect definition of an entity--a thing. It isn`t what you personally "feel" is the perfect definition, it`s THE perfect definition!
Let`s take a hammer, for instance. Today, people would say that a perfect hammer is one that fits their hand, or that matches their living room curtains, or that can take pictures and upload them to the Web. Fine, those might actually be *attributes* of a hammer, but they`re not the definition of a hammer.
A hammer is a tool. That`s the subsuming, or containing set. It`s used to bash things (strike them, if you want to get formal). That`s the unique characteristic, or attribute. Everything else may be there, but it isn`t essential. If you remove the color or weight, you still have a hammer. But if you can`t bash something, it`s definitely not a hammer.
To find an ideal is to define it. And to define something is to start with the group of similar things, then isolate exactly 1 (unique) identifying attribute. Only that one thing is unique, by definition of unique.
How many people do you know, or how many examples have you seen of a business based on a service or product where nobody has a clue what would be the ideal version of that business? Then ask yourself, how long does that company stay in business?
An ideal represents all the information about a thing. Without information we have ignorance, and more often than not, ignorance can get you killed. We can draw a connection between Ideal > Information > Survival.
Is survival valuable?
What`s your product or service? Now, how would you describe the ideal version of your product or service? That description goes a long way toward *defining* your product or service.
If you can define the ideal version of your product or service, then you can sit down and talk about it. When you`ve found the unique attribute, you`ll likely also run across all sorts of non-essential attributes, like that color-coordinated hammer. :-)
Another thing about ideals is that they don`t (can`t) exist in the real world. They`re logical expressions, existing in the abstract. As such, they don`t exist now, either. They act as a beacon into the future, as we strive toward that ideal.
What else relates to "the future?" Goals! When people have no ideals, then whatever is happening right now is good enough. It`s just fine. That`s the basis for "relativism." Why bother with a goal when you have no idea what that goal would or could be?
An ideal is the destination point, regardless of whether or not you can attain it. When you come as close as possible, then you also have the highest quality. Quality is a measure of how closely something approaches an ideal.
So ideals give us information, they provide us with goals, they help us define what it is we`re making or doing, and they show us how to measure the quality of our actions. Is that valuable?