The term may be used simply as the adjective of idea, in the various senses of idea noted above. Its more customary usage both as adjective and noun refers to a perfected reality that is not given in actual experience, though the perfection would be but the realization of natures, tendencies, and forms which are found in actual experience. Such an ideal in aesthetics the Platonists conceives as self-existing and offering the perfect beauty of which all beautiful objects are but copies. The aesthetic ideal may be the expression of the characteristics of a race in an individual or the creation of an artist. It may be the exact expression of what a conceptual definition demands in the sciences, e.g., an ideal elasticity, or it may be that which would satisfy the aesthetic demands of an artist or a man of taste. In ethics the ideal has been conceived as the essential good in the Platonic sense, as the end of moral conduct, whether this be the satisfaction of the hedonist, or the self-realization of the Hegelian. On the other hand it may be regarded as the expression of the standard of moral conduct, where the actual end is one which is beyond our knowledge or adequate comprehension. In that wide range of moral conduct in which there is uncertainty in regard to the ultimate good toward which we assume the moral order moves, we guide ourselves by ideal standards of character, especially those of authoritative personalities, of justice, of freedom, and of humanity. It is such standards that we have in mind when we speak of a man of high ideals. They have especial reference to men's conceptions of institutions whose actual operations leave much to be desired. Thus our judicial, governmental, educational, and religious institutions all fall short of the standards which men of high ideals entertain. On the other hand such standards are abstract just because we do not know the concrete end toward which conduct should be directed, and a man of high ideals may find that they interfere with the unprejudiced search for what is best under actual conditions. It is evident that our ideals are tested by our ability to translate them into concrete ends in the presence of these moral problems in which we are in doubt as to what is the good.


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