Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ideals vs. idealism

Ann Callaway posted the following quotation in a comment over on "Does Not Wisdom Call?" - one of my other blogs:

There is a difference between knowing the ideal and being attached to idealism...ideals are great as descriptions of how we want things to be; when they are used as descriptions of how things 'ought to be', they become idealism, a form of delusion.

-- Jiyu-Kennett

Annie went on to say:
I found this disctinction to be very clarifying for those times when I "expect" others to behave in certain ways and am disappointed when they do not.
I agree. Yes, indeed.


  1. Idealism as a form of delusion?! Say it ain't so!

    Can idealism not contain any "ought to be"s, or expectations? Or would that just be an ideal?

  2. Well, Courtney, it's a subtle distinction but an important one. There's a certain discernment about what "justice would require", yes, and, in a way, that's kind of like an "ought". However, what many people mean when they say "it ought to be a certain way" is that until things ARE that way then they cannot be okay. They end up believing that "now" is NOT okay because things are not yet the way the "ought" to be. Do you see how that takes us out of the moment? The present moment is the only "place" we can be happy.

    We can still work for our ideals to be fulfilled and we can still believe in our ideals. It's just that it's not skillful to be ATTACHED to the ideals such that our wellbeing depends on them.

  3. I get this a lot better now that I've seen a clash between my ideals and idealism play out this weekend in my relationship.

    Thanks for your further explanation!


New policy: Anonymous posts must be signed or they will be deleted. Pick a name, any name (it could be Paperclip or Doorknob), but identify yourself in some way. Thank you.