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Why Perfection is Possible

Ben Bayer, Harry Binswanger

Presented at: New Ideal Live

Date: Mar 23, 2022

Say that nobody is perfect and almost no one will challenge you. Perfection is thought to be an impossible dream. This view informs people's thinking on a range of subjects, from mathematics to morality and human nature. But why do people accept this view? Is their reason rational? Not everyone thinks so. Ayn Rand challenged the catch phrase. Join Ben Bayer for an interview with the Objectivist philosopher Dr. Harry Binswanger, whose article "The Possible Dream" (recently reprinted on New Ideal) channels Rand's philosophy to refute the conventional thinking on the topic of perfection.

In this episode of New Ideal Live, Ben Bayer interviews Harry Binswanger about his article “The Possible Dream” (recently republished in New Ideal), which channels Ayn Rand's philosophy to refute the conventional idea that perfection is impossible.

Among the topics covered:

  • The conventional idea, represented by the song “The Impossible Dream,” that ideals are unachievable in reality;
  • The cultural consequences of the idea that moral perfection is impossible;
  • The mystical origin of the idea that moral perfection is impossible;
  • The personal consequences of accepting the anti-perfection doctrine, versus setting realistic goals and celebrating achievements;
  • The importance of recognizing that standards are man-made and can be chosen rationally;
  • What it means to achieve moral perfection;
  • How the possibility of perfection is an implication of Ayn Rand’s philosophy;
  • How to determine whether a concept or standard is valid or invalid;
  • Why the altruistic moral standard is not based on reality;
  • The relation of the possibility of perfection to the possibility of certainty;
  • Applying the idea that perfection is possible to philosophy of mathematics;
  • Binswanger’s experience writing the article under Rand’s editorial supervision.

Mentioned in the discussion are Binswanger’s article “The Possible Dream,” the periodical he edited, the Objectivist Forum, and his book How We Know.

The podcast was recorded on March 2, 2022 and was broadcast on March 23, 2022.

0:00:00 Introduction
0:01:37 Perfection as "The Impossible Dream"
0:03:22 Cultural consequences
0:07:09 Mystical origins
0:09:50 Personal consequences
0:16:16 Choosing rational standards
0:22:04 What moral perfection means
0:29:44 Ayn Rand's philosophy
0:31:29 Valid vs. invalid standards
0:34:38 Altruistic moral standards
0:44:58 Perfection and certainty
0:50:10 Philosophy of mathematics
0:57:21 Rand's editorial supervision

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Parts: 1

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