The definition of “perfect”
Perfectum vero dicitur, unum quidem, extra quod non est accipere ullam quidem particulam: ut tempus perfectum singulorum, extra quod non est accipere tempus aliquod, quod sit huius temporis pars. Et quae sunt, secundum virtutem et eius quod bene, non habentia hyperbolem ad genus. Ut perfectus medicus, et perfectus fistulator, quando secundum speciem propriae virtutis in nullo deficiunt. Sic autem transferentes ad mala dicimus sycophantam perfectum et latronem perfectum, quoniam et honos dicimus eos, ut latronem bonum, sycophantam bonum. Est enim virtus perfectio quaedam. Quodlibet enim perfectum, et substantia omnis tunc perfecta, quando secundum speciem propriae virtutis in nulla deficit parte secundum naturam mensurae.
That thing is said to be perfect (or complete) outside of which it is impossible to find even a single part. For example, the perfect time of each thing is that outside of which it is impossible to find any time which is a part of it. And those things are perfect whose power and goodness admit of no further degree in their species—for example, we speak of a perfect physician and a perfect flute player when they lack nothing pertaining to the form of their particular power. And thus in transferring this term to bad things, we speak of a perfect slanderer and a perfect thief, since we also call them good, as a good slanderer and a good thief. For any power is a perfection, since each thing is perfect and every substance is perfect when, in the line of its particular power, it lacks no part of its natural measure.
Amplius quibus est finis studiosus, ea dicuntur perfecta. Etenim secundum habere finem perfecta. Quare quoniam finis ultimorum aliquis est, et ad prava transferentes dicimus perfecte perdi, et perfecte corrumpi, quando nihil deest corruptioni et malo, sed in ultimo est. Quapropter mors secundum metaphoram dicitur finis, quia ambo ultima. Finis autem et cuius causa ultimum.
Further, those things are said to be perfect which have a goal or end worth seeking. For things are perfect which have attained their goal. Hence, since a goal is something final, we also say, in transferring the term perfect to bad things, that a thing has been perfectly spoiled and perfectly corrupted when nothing pertaining to its corruption and evil is missing, but it is at its final point. And for this reason death is described metaphorically as an end, for both of these are final things. But an end is a final purpose.
Secundum se dicta quidem igitur perfecta toties dicuntur. Alia quidem, quia secundum bene in nullo deficiunt, nec hyperbolem habent, nec extra aliquid accipiunt. Alia omnino secundum quod non habent hyperbolem, in unoquoque genere, nec aliquid est extra.
Things that are said to be perfect in themselves, then, are said to be such in all of these senses—some because they lack no part of their goodness and admit of no further degree and have no part outside; others in general inasmuch as they admit of no further degree in any genus and have no part outside.
Alia vero iam secundum ipsa, aut in faciendo aliquid tale aut habendo, aut cognoscendo tali, aut in aliqualiter dici ad primo dicta perfecta.
And other things are now termed perfect in reference to these, either because they make something such, or have something such, or know something such, or because they are somehow referred to things that are said to be perfect in the primary senses.
1033. Postquam Philosophus distinxit nomina, quae significant causas, et subiectum, et partes subiectorum huius scientiae; hic incipit distinguere nomina quae significant ea quae se habent per modum passionis; et dividitur in duas partes.
1033. Having treated the various senses of the terms which signify the causes, the subject, and the parts of the subject of this science, here the Philosopher begins to treat the various senses of the terms which designate attributes having the character of properties. This is divided into two parts.
In prima distinguit nomina ea quae pertinent ad perfectionem entis.
In the first he gives the various senses of the terms which refer to the perfection or completeness of being.
In secunda distinguit nomina quae pertinent ad entis defectum, ibi, falsum dicitur uno modo.
In the second (1024b17; ), he treats those which refer to a lack of being, at false means.
Circa primum duo facit.
In regard to the first he does two things.
Primo distinguit nomina significantia ea quae pertinent ad perfectionem entis.
First, he gives the different senses of the terms which designate attributes pertaining to the perfection of being;
Secundo pertinentia ad totalitatem.
second , he treats those which designate the wholeness of being.
Perfectum enim et totum, aut sunt idem, aut fere idem significant, ut dicitur in tertio Physicorum.
For the terms “perfect” and “whole” have the same or nearly the same meaning, as is said in the Physics 3.
Secunda ibi, ex aliquo esse dicitur.
He considers the second part of this division where he says, to come from something (1023a26).
Circa primum duo facit.
In regard to the first part he does two things.
Primo distinguit hoc nomen perfectum.
First, he treats the various senses of the term “perfect.”
Secundo distinguit quaedam nomina, quae significant quasdam perfectiones perfecti, ibi, terminus dicitur.
Second (1022a4; ), he treats the various senses of the terms which signify certain conditions of that which is perfect, at the term “limit.”
Circa primum duo facit.
In regard to the first he does two things.
Primo ponit modos, quibus aliqua dicuntur perfecta secundum se.
First, he considers the senses in which things are said to be perfect in themselves;
Secundo modos, quibus aliqua dicuntur perfecta per respectum ad alia, ibi, alia vero.
and second (1022a1; ), he treats those in which things are said to be perfect by reason of something else, at and other things.
Circa primum duo facit.
In regard to the first he does two things.
Primo ponit tres modos quibus aliquid secundum se dicitur perfectum.
First, he gives three senses in which a thing is said to be perfect in itself.
Secundo ostendit quomodo secundum hos modos aliqua diversimode perfecta dicuntur, ibi, secundum se dicta quidem igitur.
Second (1021b30; ), he shows how, according to these senses, a thing is said to be perfect in different ways, at things that are said.
1034. Dicit ergo primo, quod perfectum uno modo dicitur, extra quod non est accipere aliquam eius particulam; sicut homo dicitur perfectus, quando nulla deest ei pars. Et dicitur tempus perfectum, quando non est accipere extra aliquid quod sit temporis pars; sicut dicitur dies perfectus, quando nulla pars diei deest.
1034. He accordingly first says that in one sense, that thing is said to be perfect outside of which it is impossible to find any of its parts. For example, a man is said to be perfect when no part of him is missing, and a period of time is said to be perfect when none of its parts can be found outside of it. For example, a day is said to be perfect or complete when no part of it is missing.
1035. Alio modo dicitur aliquid perfectum secundum virtutem; et sic dicitur aliquid perfectum, quod non habet hyperbolem, idest superexcellentiam vel superabundantiam ad hoc quod aliquid bene fiat secundum genus illud, et similiter nec defectum. Hoc enim dicimus bene se habere, ut dicitur in secundo Ethicorum, quod nihil habet nec plus nec minus quam debet habere. Et sic dicitur perfectus medicus et perfectus fistulator, quando non deficit ei aliquid, quod pertineat ad speciem propriae virtutis, secundum quam dicitur, quod hic est bonus medicus, et ille bonus fistulator. Virtus enim cuiuslibet est quae bonum facit habentem, et opus eius bonum reddit.
1035. A thing is said to be perfect in another sense with reference to some ability. Thus a thing is said to be perfect which admits of no further degree—that is, excess or superabundance—from the viewpoint of good performance in some particular line and is not deficient in any respect. For we say that that thing is in a good state which has neither more nor less than it ought to have, as is said in Ethics 2. Thus a man is said to be a perfect physician or a perfect flute player when he lacks nothing pertaining to the particular power by which he is said to be a good physician or a good flute player. For the ability which each thing has is what makes its possessor good and renders his work good.
1036. Secundum autem hunc modum utimur translative nomine perfecti etiam in malis. Dicimus enim perfectum sycophantam, idest calumniatorem, et perfectum latronem, quando in nullo deficit ab eo quod competit eis inquantum sunt tales. Nec est mirum si in istis quae magis sonant defectum, utimur nomine perfectionis; quia etiam cum sint mala, utimur in eis nomine bonitatis per quamdam similitudinem. Dicimus enim bonum furem et bonum calumniatorem, quia sic se habent in suis operationibus, licet malis, sicut boni in bonis.
1036. And it is in this sense that we also transfer the term “perfect” to bad things. For we speak of a perfect slanderer, or scandal monger, and a perfect thief, when they lack none of the qualities proper to them as such. Nor is it surprising if we use the term “perfect” of those things that rather designate a defect, because even when things are bad we predicate the term good of them in an analogous sense. For we speak of a good thief and a good scandalmonger because even though they are evil, in their operations they are disposed like good men towards good operations.
1037. Et quod aliquid dicatur perfectum per comparationem ad virtutem propriam, provenit quia virtus est quaedam perfectio rei. Unumquodque enim tunc est perfectum quando nulla pars magnitudinis naturalis, quae competit ei secundum speciem propriae virtutis, deficit ei. Sicut autem quaelibet res naturalis, habet determinatam mensuram naturalis magnitudinis secundum quantitatem continuam, ut dicitur in secundo De anima, ita etiam quaelibet res habet determinatam quantitatem suae virtutis naturalis. Equus enim habet quantitatem dimensivam determinatam secundum naturam cum aliqua latitudine. Est enim aliqua quantitas, ultra quam nullus equus protenditur in magnitudine. Et similiter est aliqua quantitas, quam non transcendit in parvitate. Ita etiam ex utraque parte determinatur aliquibus terminis quantitas virtutis equi. Nam aliqua est virtus equi, qua maior in nullo equo invenitur: et similiter est aliqua tam parva, qua nulla est minor.
1037. The reason why a thing is said to be perfect in the line of its particular power is that an power is a perfection of a thing. For each thing is perfect when no part of the natural magnitude which belongs to it according to the form of its proper power is missing. Moreover, just as each natural being has a definite measure of natural magnitude in continuous quantity, as is stated in On the Soul 2, so too each thing has a definite amount of its own natural ability. For example, a horse has by nature a definite dimensive quantity, within certain limits; for there is both a maximum quantity and minimum quantity beyond which no horse can go in size. And in a similar way the quantity of active power in a horse has certain limits in both directions. For there is some maximum power of a horse which is not in fact surpassed in any horse; similarly, there is some minimum which never fails to be attained.
1038. Sicuti igitur primus modus perfecti accipiebatur ex hoc quod nihil rei deerat de quantitate dimensiva sibi naturaliter determinata, ita hic secundus modus accipitur ex hoc quod nihil deest alicui de quantitate virtutis sibi debitae secundum naturam. Uterque autem modus perfectionis attenditur secundum interiorem perfectionem.
1038. Therefore, just as the first sense of the term “perfect” was based on the fact that a thing lacks no part of the dimensive quantity which it is naturally determined to have, in a similar way this second sense of the term is based on the fact that a thing lacks no part of the quantity of power which it is naturally determined to have. And each of these senses of the term has to do with internal perfection.
1039. Amplius quibus tertium modum ponit per respectum ad exterius; dicens, quod illa dicuntur tertio modo perfecta quibus inest finis, idest quae iam consecuta sunt suum finem; si tamen ille finis fuerit studiosus, idest bonus:
1039. Further, those things (1021b23). Here he gives the third sense in which the term “perfect” is used, and it pertains to external perfection. He says that in a third way those things are said to be perfect which have a goal, that is, which have already attained their end, but only if that end is worth seeking, or good.
sicut homo, quando iam consequitur beatitudinem. Qui autem consequitur finem suum in malis, magis dicitur deficiens quam perfectus; quia malum est privatio perfectionis debitae. In quo patet, quod mali, quando suam perficiunt voluntatem, non sunt feliciores, sed miseriores.
A man, for instance, is called perfect when he has already attained happiness. But someone who has attained some evil goal is said to be deficient rather than perfect, because evil is a privation of the perfection which a thing ought to have. Thus it is evident that when evil men accomplish their will, they are not happier, but sadder.
Quia vero omnis finis est quoddam ultimum, ideo per quamdam similitudinem transferimus nomen perfectum ad ea, quae perveniunt ad ultimum, licet illud sit malum. Sicut dicitur aliquid perfecte perdi, vel corrumpi, quando nihil deest de corruptione vel perditione rei. Et per hanc metaphoram, mors dicitur finis, quia est ultimum. Sed finis non solum habet quod sit ultimum, sed etiam quod sit cuius causa fit aliquid. Quod non contingit morti vel corruptioni.
And since every goal or end is something final, for this reason we transfer the term “perfect” somewhat figuratively to those things that have reached some final state, even though it be evil. For example, a thing is said to be perfectly spoiled or corrupted when nothing pertaining to its ruin or corruption is missing. And by this metaphor death is called an end, because it is something final. However, an end is not only something final, but also that for the sake of which a thing comes to be. This does not apply to death or corruption.
1040. Deinde cum dicit secundum se ostendit quomodo aliqua diversimode se habeant ad praedictos modos perfectionis; et dicit, quod quaedam dicuntur secundum se perfecta: et hoc dupliciter.
1040. Things that are said to be (1021b30). Here he shows how things are perfect in different ways according to the foregoing senses of perfection. He says that some things are said to be perfect in themselves, and this occurs in two ways.
Alia quidem universaliter perfecta, quia nihil omnino deficit eis absolute, nec aliquam habent hyperbolem, idest excedentiam, quia a nullo videlicet penitus in bonitate exceduntur, nec aliquid extra accipiunt, quia nec indigent exteriori bonitate. Et haec est conditio primi principii, scilicet Dei, in quo est perfectissima bonitas, cui nihil deest de omnibus perfectionibus in singulis generibus inventis.
For some things are altogether perfect because they lack absolutely nothing at all; they neither have any further degree (that is, excess), because there is nothing which surpasses them in goodness, nor receive any good from outside, because they have no need of any external goodness. This is the condition of the first principle, God, in whom the most perfect goodness is found, and to whom none of all the perfections found in each genus of things are lacking.
1041. Alia dicuntur perfecta in aliquo genere, ex eo quod quantum ad illud genus pertinet, nec habent hyperbolem, idest excedentiam, quasi aliquid eis deficiat eorum, quae illi generi debentur; nec aliquid eorum, quae ad perfectionem illius generis pertinent, est extra ea, quasi eo careant; sicut homo dicitur perfectus, quando iam adeptus est beatitudinem.
1041. Some things are said to be perfect in some particular line because they do not admit of any further degree, or excess, in their genus, as though they lacked anything proper to that genus. Nor is anything that belongs to the perfection of that genus external to them, as though they lacked it—just as a man is said to be perfect when he has already attained happiness.
1042. Et sicut fit haec distinctio quantum ad secundum modum perfectionis supra positum, ita potest fieri quantum ad primum, ut tangitur in principio Caeli et mundi. Nam quodlibet corpus particulare est quantitas perfecta secundum suum genus, quia habet tres dimensiones, quibus non sunt plures. Sed mundus dicitur perfectus universaliter, quia omnino nihil extra ipsum est.
1042. And not only is this distinction made with reference to the second sense of “perfection” given above, but it can also be made with reference to the first sense of the term, as is mentioned at the beginning of On the Heavens. For any individual body is a perfect quantity in its genus, because it has three dimensions, which are all there are. But the world is said to be universally perfect because there is absolutely nothing outside of it.