Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Question

Would you agree with the statement that:

The ends justify the means.

Why/why not?


Matt W said...

No. Mostly because all actions themselves change the actor. I'm sure I have other reasons, but I can't think of them.

Also, I'm not hardline on this; I think doing evil for an end result of good can be justified, I just think that a good end does not come close to 'justifying by default' all means.

Katherine said...

Indeed; to either adhere to or oppose that maxim absolutely would become disastrous. Comes back to that thing C.S.Lewis said about the danger of taking any impulse in our human nature and setting it up as an absolute rule. Just because such an impulse feels strong within me in response to a certain situation doesn't mean it applies to other situations, or in fact that I've even correctly identified the nature of my response to the situation.

Which raises the question of whether invoking such a principle (for or against) as justification for an action has any moral weight... I suppose it still does, at least in terms of explaining what led one to a certain decision, though not as a complete justification on its own. I.e. further reasons would still be required, as to why the principle applied or did not apply in this case, or outweighed competing maxims for some reason.

I think I'm waffling now, and probably not explaining myself very well.

Has anything in particular led you to ask the question?

Nathan said...

I think it's a case by case basis. In some cases the ends do justify the means. Historically I believe this was the president of America deciding to nuke Japan? In which case, it was a tough call, but he might have been right. More generally, can ends justify the means?

If I may take what KT is saying one step further - if we shouldn't invoke principles in the justifications of actions, then ultimately we are only left with ends to justify the means. Remembering that an action changes an actor, which is in itself an end, I'd agree that the (probable, intended) ends are generally a good indication of how good the means were.

EONsim said...

KT nothing in particular has caused me to ask. I was just thinking about the idea the other day and was curious about what others thought.

I also tend to think that it's very much a case by case sort of thing some times it is acceptable sometimes not.

However I do think is that when ever it is used whether the end was important enough to justify the means used or not.
That the one or those who made the decision must take full responsibility for the means used.

era said...

It is not really possible to seperate the means from the end. The means become to ends, and so if you want a good ends, the only way to get there is by using good means. It is like planting a weed and expecting a rose to grow.

Atleast that is what Gandhi taught me.

EONsim said...

I don't really agree with the idea that you can only get good ends via good means.
Well I'd accept that using a bad means makes it quite a bit harder to get and all round good result it doesn't, I think, make it impossible.

era said...

Because I am lazy and because it is relevant, you might like to read this.