Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Real and Ideal

Well, here we are again. After several rounds of explaining to people that both 'ideal' and 'real' don't mean what they thought, I am moved to etymologise once more.

'Ideal', from Greek eidos = 'form' and then idea = 'archetype', refers to things that are not real. An ideal gas does not exist, and ideal option doesn't either. If you say something is 'Platonic', then it is archetypal, and hence ideal and not real.

Which brings us to 'real', from Latin res = 'thing' and then realis = 'actual'. This refers to things done or objects to which you can do things. A real gas is something you can trap and manipulate, a real option is something you can see and exercise.

You can think of 'ideal' as describing something that ought to be. As 'archetype' or 'first among forms', it is the desired shape of things. You can think of 'real' as that which is.

True contentment comes when you accept the real as something as close to ideal as you can get, or feel empowered to make it so.

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2 Comments:

Blogger tfoo said...

Interesting.
What do you mean by "exist"?
Ok, more seriously, and perhaps off-topic, I think that alot of eschatological impulse seen these days stems from the desire to see the "ideal" made "real". I suppose that the facts of eschatology are independent of these motivations, but well, I'm just saying.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 9:30:00 pm  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

tfoo: *grin* from Latin existere = 'to step out or be presented in tangible or replicable form, or to have the property of being able to do so.' As for eschatological impulses, I think humans have always had some tendency towards seeking less mediated gratification. :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011 2:35:00 am  

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