Ideal (ethics)
An ideal is a principle
A principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed...

 or value
Value (personal and cultural)
A personal or cultural value is an absolute or relative ethical value, the assumption of which can be the basis for ethical action. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based...

 that one actively pursues as a goal. Ideals are particularly important in ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, as the order in which one places them tends to determine the degree to which one reveals them as real and sincere. It is the application, in ethics, of a universal
Universal (metaphysics)
In metaphysics, a universal is what particular things have in common, namely characteristics or qualities. In other words, universals are repeatable or recurrent entities that can be instantiated or exemplified by many particular things. For example, suppose there are two chairs in a room, each of...

. It is roughly similar to the relative intrinsic value
Intrinsic value (ethics)
Intrinsic value is an ethical and philosophic property. It is the ethical or philosophic value that an object has "in itself" or "for its own sake", as an intrinsic property...


Someone who claims to have an ideal of honesty
Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating, or theft....

 but is willing to lie
For other uses, see Lie A lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention to deceive others....

 to protect a friend is demonstrating that not only does he hold friendship
Friendship is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum...

 as an ideal, but, that it is a more important one than honesty. Thus ideals can be seen to be similar to values.

However, the -ism of ideals is slightly contrasted with idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 (which is the doctrine that ideas, or thought, make up either the whole or an indispensable aspect of any full reality, so that a world of material objects containing no thought either could not exist as it is experienced, or would not be fully "real.")

In applied ethics

In some theories of applied ethics
Applied ethics
Applied ethics is, in the words of Brenda Almond, co-founder of the Society for Applied Philosophy, "the philosophical examination, from a moral standpoint, of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment"...

, such as that of Rushworth Kidder
Rushworth Kidder
Rushworth M. Kidder founded the Institute for Global Ethics in 1990, and is the author of Moral Courage and How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living...

, there is importance given to such orders as a way to resolve disputes
Dispute resolution
Dispute resolution is the process of resolving disputes between parties.-Methods:Methods of dispute resolution include:* lawsuits * arbitration* collaborative law* mediation* conciliation* many types of negotiation* facilitation...

. In law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, for instance, a judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

 is often called on to resolve the balance between the ideal of truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

, which would advise hearing out all evidence, and the ideal of fairness.

In politics

In politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 ideals play a pivotal role. During the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, the principles of "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "Liberty, equality, fraternity ", is the national motto of France, and is a typical example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third...

" were raised to the status of ideals. The Ten Key Values of the Green Party are likewise raised to such status today. In fact, most political movements have a certain set of ideals. However, in many cases, one can easily find instances where ideals were "not lived up to" - some of which are cases where one simply proved to outweigh another for some specific decision, or where all were compromised simply to retain the power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

 to continue to pursue them.

Idols and heroes

A different form of ideal is an idol
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

 or hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

, who is held up as a moral example
Moral example
Moral example is trust in the moral core of another, a role model. It was cited by Confucius, Muhammad, Mohandas Gandhi and other important philosophers and theologians as the prime duty of a ruler - including the head of a family or the owner of a business....

. Since this is an actual person or fictional character, it is too complex and multi-faceted to be considered an ideal in the abstract sense. However, when they are encountered in the form of a story, with only a few traits on display, they are a simplified archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 from which one can very easily derive stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

s or mimicry. In Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, for instance, the life of Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 is held up as "ideal", but must be interpreted for believers through the tale of his life, or sira, and his many sayings, the hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....


Ideal and virtue

Given the complexity of putting ideals into practice, and resolving conflicts between them, it is not uncommon to see them reduced to dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

. One way to avoid this, according to Bernard Crick
Bernard Crick
Sir Bernard Rowland Crick was a British political theorist and democratic socialist whose views were often summarised as "politics is ethics done in public"...

, is to have ideals that themselves are descriptive of a process, rather than an outcome. His political virtues try to raise the practical habits useful in resolving disputes into ideals of their own. A virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

, in general, is an ideal that one can make a habit
Habituation can be defined as a process or as a procedure. As a process it is defined as a decrease in an elicited behavior resulting from the repeated presentation of an eliciting stimulus...


Relative ideal

In formal axiology, Robert S. Hartman
Robert S. Hartman
Robert Schirokauer Hartman was a logician and philosopher. His primary field of study was scientific axiology and he is known as its original theorist...

 contended that being ideal means that something is the best member of the set of all things of that class. For example, the ideal student is the best member of the set of all students in exactly the same way that the ideal circle is the best circle that can be imagined of the class of all circles. Since we can define the properties that the ideal member of a class should have, the value of any actual object can be empirically determined by comparing it to the ideal. The closer an object's actual properties match up to the properties of the ideal, the better the object is. For example, a bumpy circle drawn in the sand is not as "good" as a very smooth one drawn with a compass. In the world in general, each particular object ought to become more like its ideal. In ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, by analogy, each person should attempt to become more of an ideal person, and a person's morality can actually be measured by examining how close they live up to their ideal self.
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