What is Perfectionism? Why it is called a Theory of Self Realization?

The word ‘Perfection’ has being rooted in the Greek word ‘eudaemonia’. The Greeks interpreted the word as something which is very nearer to what we call happiness.

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For Aristotle, ‘eudaemonia’ meant the end or final cause of moral life. According to him, the word means an exercise of mans soul or the realization of the means moral capacities in accordance with excellence or virtue.

Perfection as theory of moral standard advocates perfection as the highest moral goal or the summum bonum of life.


The word ‘Perfection’ is vague in its meaning as it might mean perfection in medical practice, perfection under wing a piece of art, perfection of cooking. But the perfection, which the moral thinker seeks, is the self-realization. According to the perfectionist, self-realization is the highest goal of moral life. It may mean making of the self perfect.

Self Realization:

According perfectionism, perfection of self-realization is the highest good. Perfection is the perfection of the character of rational control of teaching emotion and desires in accordance with virtue or moral excellence. It is also perfection of humanity or development of a particular type of character of humanity. It implies the conscious pursuit of this ideal by every person in human society.

Perfectionism is also called Eudarmonism. The Greek use the term Eudamonia in the sense of ‘happiness’ or welfare or prosperity. But Aristotle used it in the sense of moral well-being or realization of a person’s capacities in accordance with virtue, Aristotle says: ‘The good of man comes to be a working of the soul in the way of excellence or it admits excellence of degrees in the way of the best and the most perfect excellence.


Perfectionism gives us permanent happiness. The well-being of the self arises from the subordinate of feeling and desires to reason. Happiness springs from the harmony of desires brought about by reason.

This doctrine is also called the ethics of personality or the ethics of self-realization. It consists in the realization of the ideal, rational or social self and their intimate relationship with others in society.

This self is the rational self. The rational self can be realised by regulating all feelings, emotions and desires by reason. Self realization means the realization of the rational self and not realization of the sentiment self. Some critics wrongly contend that self realization any mean realization of good-self as well as realization of bad-self. T.E. Hall says, “A bad-self can be quite as real as a good one.

An evil-self may realize it self an evil as well as a good one in good. This criticism is not justified the ideal self is also the social self. It is not the narrow, individual or lower-self. The social self can be realised by identification of a person with wider and wider social groups.


A person can lift himself above his narrow individuality. If he can identify himself with family, the community, the nation and humanity and their interest. Love, co-operation, fellow-feeling and social service lead to the realization of his social self. The realization of social self means its realization in a society. Self realization is only possible through society or social institutions.

The family, the community, the school and college, the workshop, the state the nation, humanity and church are the media of self realization which is not possible in isolation from society. Self-realization is only possible through self-sacrifice. Lose your narrow, individual private self in order to find your wider, universal social self. Social self have the essential travels of the ideal self.

Self-sacrifice is the essence of love, universal love and social-service lead to self-realization. Perfectionism advocates self-realization as the moral ideal, which should not be confounded with egoism. Some critics wrongly contend that self realization means egoism. But in trust, it is the negation of egoism as such, it reconciles egoism with altruism.

Self-realization means the development of personality. It consists in an actualization of immense potentialities of the self. There are physical, intellectual, aesthetical and moral potentialities or capacities. The self realization consists in the harmonious development of all these capacities to a certain event which leads to the fullest development of personality.

But it does not mean the perfect development of all the manifold powers, because it would lead to mediocrity and diletantism. Moreover, human energy being limited, the perfect development of one power interferes with that of another power. A person cannot become a great athlete, a great scholar, a great poet, a great painter, a great politician, a great social reformer and the like. So we would know his own genius and develop his powers in that direction.

Carlyle says, “Know that thou can start work at, and work at it like a Hercules.” “All true work is religion.” Thou Shalt labour, within the particular sphere of activities, with all this strength, with all this heat, will all the soul, with all the mind. Have faith in human progress and constitute your own realization.

“Work is worship”. Every person ought to do his duties appropriate to do his station in society. Bradely’s conception of “mystation and it, duties” makes the meaning of self-realization clear. Men are born with particular social environment, and his specific depend on them. They should in -their own way, sustain and further the moral world of which they are the members. Their specific duties depend on their special attitudes.

Self-realisation means the achievement of health, happiness, knowledge, beauty and virtue. The ideal of human life and specially achievement of that ideal which fits in with a person’s in born aptitudes, which raise him to the height of his personality and through which he can makes his best contribution to the progress of humanity. Hence self-realisation of different persons depends on the development of different aptitudes. But in every case it means the self-realisation of the ideal rational or social self in co-operation and intimate union with society.

Self-realisation is possible only through self-sacrifice. Self-realisation consists in the regulation and transformation of the sentient self by the rational self. It is accompanied by happiness which is an index of perception. Happiness is the feeling of self-realisation. It arises from the systematisation of desires.

Reconciliation of hedonism with rationalism:

Headonism regards the self as Bensuous and gratification of the sentient self as the highest good. Rationalism regards the self as purely rational and realization of the pure rational self as the highest good. Perfectionism regards the self as sentient and rational both, and realization of the complete i.e., total self as the highest good. Hedeonism regards the self as a series of sensations, feelings and desires.

Rationalism regards the self as entirely rational in nature, sensibility being foreign to the nature of the self, perfection regards the self as an organic unity of sensibility and reasons- reason being superior to sensibility.

The self is a permanent spiritual principle in which sensibility is organised and regulated by reason both having those proper place and function in the self. It is a self-conscious and self-determined spiritual principle that is expressed in sensations which are organised into the unity of knowledge and in feelings and desires which are controlled co-ordinated harmonized in virtues. It is neither a series of sensations and ideas as Hume holds, nor a mysterious no menon, trascendental ego, behind the series of menial phenomena as Kant maintains. Both are unreal abstractions apart from each other. It is a concrete spiritual expressed in its empirical states and organising them into a unity.

Hedonism regards sensibility as the essence of the self, and it regards pleasure of the gratification of desires as the highest good. Rationalism regards reason as the essence of the self and sensibility as foreign to its empirical nature, and rationalism as the life of pure reason to the suppression or extinction of sensibility as the highest goad.

Perfectionism regards perfection or realization of the concrete or total self, both sentiment and rational, as the highest good. It considers the realization of the higher, rational self, by subjugating, regulating and transforming- the sentiment-Self to be the highest good and not by extirpating it. Perfection is nether rational pursuit of sensuous pleasure due to the satisfaction of hunger, thirst, sex instinct etc., nor total suppression of the bodily appetites and desires and consequent purely rational life of moral excellence. It is perfection of character consequent on the regulation and transformation of desires by reason. Thus perfectionism is based on the concrete view of the self.

Individuality and Personality:

James Seth distinguished between individuality and personality as follows. Man has a higher nature and a lower nature. The former is constituted by reason while the latter is constituted by sensibly. The former is the rational self or personality while the latter is the sentient or individuality. As mere individuals or creatures of sensibility men differ from one another. As persons of self-conscious rational agents they share a common life. Their interests clash so far as they are creatures of instincts and appetites. They have common interests in so far as they exercise their prerogative of reason.

Man is an individual in so far as he is a creature of impulses, subject of direct, and immediate wants and instincts which demands their satisfaction and promotion him to struggle with other individuals for his own-satisfaction Man is a person in so far as he excises reason and controls the impulsive tendencies and subdues the lower animal natural self to the higher human rational self and finds in his fellows counter parts of himself.

An individual is a means to self-gratification while a person is an end in himself. The former is a slave of passions while the later in a master of passion, free and independent. Self gratification is the deal of hedonism. Self-sacrifice or self-denial is the art of rationalism; self-realization and self-fulfilment is the deal of Eudaemonism.

So self-realization may be claimed to the highest good by all ethical theories. But what self is to be realized? Hedonism answers, the total self. Eudamonism sentiments self, rationalism answers the total self, rational or sentient Self-realisation means that the isolated desires, instead of being allowed to seek their own gratification are so systematized and harmonized with one another that they become a vehicle of the life of rational self.

Pleasure and Happiness:

Hedonism regards pleasure as the highest good. Perfectionism regards self-realization as the highest good. Self realization consists in harmonizing sensibility with reason. When feelings, and desires and harmonized by reason and reduced to an order, they give rise to happiness which is an invariable accompaniment of a well-regulated harmonious life. Pleasure arises from the gratification of momentary impulses and isolated desires.

Happiness arises from the regulation and ordering of impulses and desires by reason. Pleasure is momentary while happiness is abiding pleasure arises from the gratification of sensibility while happiness arises from the harmony to sensibility with reason. Pleasure is transitory and sensuous while happiness is abiding and rational. Happiness does not spring from the gratification of each single desire or of the greatest possible series of desires but from the systematisation of desires.

Perfection or realization of the total self-sentient and rational is the highest good. Self-realization is accompanied by happiness. ; Happiness is distinguished from pleasure is not the highest good. But it is an index or sign of self-realization.

Thus, perfectionism recognized the importance of happiness in moral life, a truly virtuous life is a happy life, and a life of harmony is a life of happiness. When conflict among contending elements in human nature are over come and a harmony is established in the sell it is filled with abinding happiness. But happiness itself is into the highest good. Rashdall erroneously brands eudarmonism as a type of egostic headonism. Hedonism and endarminism are antagonistic to each other.

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