Establishing the concept of ideal personality
Ideals, like perfection, are only theoretical. No one can consistently act as a flawless individual – we are prone to mistakes either due to exertion, poor judgement or probability. Ideals have a healthy purpose of guiding the general population towards improvement, and are henceforth extremely useful in personal development as well.
Kalos kagathos or kalokagathos (Ancient Greek: καλὸς κἀγαθός, composed of the words "beautiful" and "virtuous" or "good") is an Ancient Greek phrase used to describe the ideal of gentlemanly and knightly conduct, especially in a military context. The wealthy Athenian aristocracy referred to itself using this term, and it came to mean the ideal and perfect man.
"[Kalos kagathos is] the chivalrous ideal of the complete human personality, harmonious in mind and body, foursquare in battle and speech, song and action."
- Werner Jaeger, the 20th century classicist
Ancient background: beauty owing to function
The origins of kalos kagathos are attributed to the great Greek writer Homer, the reputed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. He considered beautiful and good to be deeply connected, proposing that beauty is caused by the effective function of the object (to further human good) – an example of this is a well-crafted kitchen knife designed with a comfortable ergonomic shape and sharp blade, something which constitutes its beauty in the context of preparation of food: an undeniable human good. Throughout Ancient Greek history kalos kagathos evolved to depict the moral and ethical ideals of a completely perfect (and thus unreachable) ideal of a man.
Without delving deeper into philosophy, the modernist viewpoint to beauty is that objects may be considered beautiful in isolation, opposite of the kalos kagathos interpretation. I find the ancient premise very appealing in the context of personal development: beauty is derived from the benefit of the function, and thus growth results in beauty.
Consider it this way: many want to exercise to improve their appearance for the express purpose of looking more beautiful or handsome. But this doesn't guarantee the development of the self as appearance and aesthetics are not directly connected to health. Many bodybuilders and supermodels possess appearances that are considered as ideals by certain groups, but the individuals themselves are often grossly unhealthy, either because of poor nutrition, excessive stress on the body or performance-enhancing substances. This is why I consider a fit appearance to be beautiful as (and when) it is a direct indicator of health and good mobility. It is a visible trait of discipline.
Establishing the modernized kalos kagathos
As previously stated by Jaeger, the kalos kagathos principle can be defined as an impossible ideal of complete harmony between the body and mind, manifested through strength in battle, speech, song, and action.
The first stage, the harmony between the body and mind (also expressed though mens sana in corpore sano) refers to the importance of physical exercise as the essential support to cognition, and vice versa. Many productive individuals have strict habits regarding daily exercise to both complement their mental abilities and act as a method to temporarily escape daily stress.
The second stage consists of investing effort in four major areas of your life. Of the four, the ability to battle and fight is clearly not as relevant as it was in the ancient era, but it can be interpreted as an elite level of physical fitness. I've described the modern equivalents of the four elements below.
Battle: As already previously stated, the modern equivalent of the capacity to battle is an elite level of physical capability equivalent to that of a competent soldier.
Speech: The ability to express yourself clearly and rationally to others, in both arguments and debates but in exchanging ideas and communicating efficiently.
Song: The capacity for creative learning and production through various arts (such as music, writing and painting), acting as a way of self-expression and a powerful tool to process emotions.
Action: The capability to efficiently react to events and consequently resist inactivity and procrastination. A ruthless dedication to order and schedule.
As biological entities bound to make mistakes we humans are sadly not machines – that defines the principles of kalos kagathos as impossible ideals in practice, as the pursuit of knowledge and skill that can always be improved upon. I see it as a constant cycle as learning new things about the world and humanity never stops, and it the process should be considered as such: breathe in and embrace that what you do not yet know, and await for the unknown to unravel.
The Rational Society is committed to presenting ideas related to the rational school of thought, focused on improving personal issues, overcoming challenges and fulfilling ambitions. It is not a dogmatic ideology but an established mode of thought with the explicit goal of guiding the person to the most logical, healthy and beneficial choice.