This is a thread specifically devoted to "perfect as the enemy of the good." Seems to me this has a lot of application in Epicurean decisionmaking, although this thread stems from the discussion of Hegesias the Death Persuader. Some apparently assert that the perfect "is" the enemy of the good, but others react that we cannot allow this to be accepted. While the two things may not be the same, having the imperfect is superior to taking positions or actions that never allow us to obtain the perfect. Absence of pain may be desirable in the abstract, but for humans the only way to achieve total freedom from pain is death, and the dead can experience neither pleasure nor pain, so obsessing on total absence of pain is self-defeating for humans. That's why I think it is unfair to Epicurus to interpret him as doing so, and that when he "seems" to do so he is engaged in philosophical debate about competing philosophic definitions, not stating that we should forgo the pleasures of life in order to make sure we never experience pain.
This is the current 5/18/23 content of the Wikipedia page:
Perfect is the enemy of good is an aphorism which means insistence on perfection often prevents implementation of good improvements. The Pareto principle or 80–20 rule explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort. Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient.
In the English-speaking world the aphorism is commonly attributed to Voltaire, who quoted an Italian proverb in his Questions sur l'Encyclopédie [fr] in 1770: "Il meglio è l'inimico del bene". It subsequently appeared in his moral poem, La Bégueule, which starts
QuoteDans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
(In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of the good)
Previously, around 1726, in his Pensées, Montesquieu wrote "Le mieux est le mortel ennemi du bien" (The best is the mortal enemy of the good).
Aristotle and other classical philosophers propounded the principle of the golden mean which counsels against extremism in general.
Its sense in English literature can be traced back to Shakespeare, In his tragedy, King Lear (1606), the Duke of Albany warns of "striving to better, oft we mar what's well" and in Sonnet 103:
QuoteWere it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
The 1893 Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources lists a similar proverb, which it claims is of Chinese provenance: "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one."
More recent applications include Robert Watson-Watt propounding a "cult of the imperfect", which he stated as "Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes"; economist George Stigler's assertion that "If you never miss a plane, you're spending too much time at the airport"; and, in