This idea would also be perfectly useless. The other day, a troll asked what we think we are doing with our life -- what is our purpose, what do we hope to accomplish, what is our mission, etc. Well, we do not wish to brag, but our goal is to be as utterly useless as the perfectly useless Idea toward which we are being attracted.
Yes, the ultimate humble brag.
Now, metaphysics is the last word in uselessness, or at least the last human word before one leaps into the translinguistic void. According to Pieper, metaphysical knowledge
refers to knowledge concerned with the whole of reality, with the structure of the world as a whole.... It is the application of our knowing faculties -- from deep within our spirit -- to the totality of all that is, to the meaning and foundation of all reality in toto: i.e., the application of the mind to its complete and undiminished object.
Commenting on another post, the same troll referenced above confessed that, "I don't get it. The intelligence of man is potentially total? So what is total intelligence? To know everything? And how is this totality explained by a transcendent reality? I'm not making the connection."
There is a deep connection between the perfect idea and our ultimately futile attempt to know and describe it: they are equally pointless.
"This kind of knowledge," writes Pieper, "is what Aristotle says is the only free kind." And by "free," he means "non-practical," in contrast to practical knowledge aimed at achieving an end.
I have a friend who is a contractor. He can do pretty much anything. He could build a guesthouse in the backyard made out of junk sitting in my garage. He might be the most useful person I know. In other words, we are polar opposites. For
the kind of knowledge which deals with the ultimate foundation of the world is supposed to not "serve" a purpose.
Rather, it is "not even possible or thinkable to put it to any use: 'it alone is there for its own sake.'"
And this means it is free: no strings of purposefulness attached. Like the human person and other ultimate goods, it can never be a means to an end. You might say it is "sabbath knowledge," when we stand back from the whole existentialada and just enjoy the handiwork.
Having said that, we can never quite get there. Try as we might, we can never become perfectly useless:
[T]he knowledge that focuses on the totality of the world, purely for the sake of knowing and to that extent free -- this knowledge cannot possibly be achieved by man; he never fully grasps it; it is therefore not something that man possesses without limitation, since as a human being he himself is subject to many kinds of necessities.... One would have to say that only God can achieve this knowledge completely....
So, only God can be perfectly useless, for he is the ultimate "for his own sake." Then again, the very essence of God is for the sake of the other: God is substance-in-relation, such that the Father makes himself useful by giving himself to the Son, and vice versa. This cannot be for the sake of something else; it is not as if the Father has an ulterior agenda or secret payoff in so pouring himself into the Son.
It must be the same with creation. If creation is an icon of trinitarian love, then it too can have no practical purpose, rather, a wholly impractical one.... What am I trying to say? Perhaps this:
First, however much man is a practical being who needs to use the things of the world to meet his requirements for living, he does not acquire his real riches through technical subordination of the forces of nature but through the purely theoretical knowledge of reality.
The existence of man is all the richer the more deeply he has access to reality and the more it is opened up to him. Through his knowledge he achieves the purest realization of his being, so that even his ultimate perfection and fulfillment consist in knowledge...
And we're back to paragraph one, the Perfect -- and perfectly useless -- Idea.
Anaxagoras expresses it his own way when, in answer to the question, "Why were you born?" he says: "To look at the sun, the moon and the sky" -- by which he would not have meant the physical heavenly bodies but the construction of the world as a whole (Pieper).
A final point: science is obviously practical. But to the extent that it transforms to scientism, it tries to be as useless as metaphysics, but only renders itself soulless and nihilistic, which is another thing entirely. It is a pseudo-uselessness, a nothing masquerading as everything. It doesn't release the intellect into freedom, but rather, eliminates freedom at the root.
Pieper ends with a crack by Boethius: The human soul is necessarily at its freest when it remains in contemplation of the divine spirit.