Without ideals man's life is purposeless.

A purposeful system or individual is ideal-seeking if, on attainment of any of its objectives, it chooses another objective that more closely approximates its ideal.

An ideal-seeking system or individual is necessarily one that is purposeful, but not all purposeful entities seek ideals. The capability of seeking ideals may well be a characteristic that distinguishes man from anything he can make, including computers.

It has been repeatedly observed that without ideals man's life is purposeless. This can be taken to mean that where there are no criteria for choosing between purposes, the choice of purpose is itself purposeless. If we are to distinguish between those purposeful systems that are ideal-seeking and those that are not, we must distlnguish the criteria that enable the ideal-seeking ones to choose between their purposes. Our consideration of the historical treatment of ideals suggested that omnipotence was the one ideal that, if achieved, would make it possible to achieve all other conceivable ideals. However, omnipotence is to ideal-seeking systems what the personality function is to purposeful systems. Just as we felt that this function could not be studied directly, so we feel that it is not possible to directly study omnipotence or the Ultimate Good. We do think it possible to approach the subject through study of those ideals that have evolved to affect the parameters of choice when the object of the choice is choice of purpose. (PS 241)

This page was last updated on July 24, 1996, by Rob Sable.