“The philosophical spirit is, then, a spirit of observation and exactness, which relates everything to true principles” (Denis Diderot).
WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING, HOW “EXACTLY” DO YOU WISH TO DO IT? For many people, the rule in playing horseshoes (“close counts”) is good enough for them. Others feel the need for more exactness. So let me offer you a few (three, to be exact) different meanings of “exact” that might be considered enthusiastic ideas.
(1) Consistent with fact, not deviating from reality. Many of our endeavors require information that will serve as the foundation for an important decision. In such cases, we ought to settle for nothing less than the exact truth. Information that is “basically correct” will yield decisions that are no more than “pretty good.” So truth is extremely important, and strict adherence to reality is a good thing. Anybody who would tell you otherwise is, well, out of touch with reality.
(2) Marked by accurate measurement. Various activities in life involve things being measured against standards, and we can see a need for measurements to have only a small margin of error. If a surgeon is installing a pacemaker for your heart, you will want the device to have been manufactured with extreme precision. And when we are “installing” things like ideas and arguments in our minds, don’t we want those to have been “manufactured” with even greater precision?
(3) Marked by strict adherence to rules. If you enter into a business contract with another person, perhaps involving thousands of dollars, you will not be content for them to keep “most” of the requirements or to be “basically” honest in their dealings with you. You will want them to do exactly what they made a commitment to do. Why is it, then, that when we are the ones under obligation, we think that the rules (even the laws of the Creator) don’t have to be kept exactly?
But is it possible to overdo this business of being exact? I suppose so. But let’s be honest: how many people do you actually know whose lives have been damaged by too much exactness? Very few, I guess. On the other hand, we all know some who have suffered from too much carelessness. I see one of them in the mirror every morning.
“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail” (Charles R. Swindoll).