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Can The Means Justify The Ends?

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posted on May, 29 2015 @ 08:28 AM
It's very likely that you have heard the term "the ends justify the means" or a variation of it at least once in your lifetime. If not, a widely-accepted explanation of the term is as follows: if a certain result can be achieved, it is more important to achieve that result than it is to worry about how it was achieved.

Unsurprisingly, the term has been a hot topic in the area of Ethics and Morality. Those in support of the meaning behind the term are certainly in the minority - after all, very few people tend to believe that anything can be morally justifiable or permissible in order to achieve an end result - no matter how desirable such an outcome might be.

Some key terms that come up when discussing this topic:
* Consequentialism - the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgement about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. (1)
* Deontology - the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to a rule or rules. (2)
* Virtue ethics - emphasizes the role of one's character and the virtues that one's character embodies for determining or evaluating ethical behavior.(3)

What I am interested in exploring is whether the methods used to attain a certain goal can ever be more important than achieving the goal itself. I personally believe that they can. How many times throughout our lives do we tend to stumble upon unforeseen knowledge unintentionally? Quite often! And it usually happens not because we successfully achieved an end result, but rather because we became distracted by an alternative viewpoint we had not previously considered.

What do you think?

Are you generally a:
1) "the ends justify the means" type of person
2) "the means justify the ends" type of person
3) "sometimes the ends justify the means and sometimes the means justify the ends" type of person

Or do you maintain an alternate viewpoint?

edit on 29/5/2015 by Dark Ghost because: formatting

posted on May, 29 2015 @ 08:57 AM
a reply to: Dark Ghost

If people didn't think the end justified the means no one would go to a job they didn't like.. The money justified doing something for 40 hours a week they hate.. "I'm just doing my job." the end justified the means.

Sometimes it's the other way where it's how you do something that matters, not the something at the end. So you could mow a yard and pull some weeds for $20, or you can steal $20.. Either way you end up with $20, but the importance in this case was hard work over theft..

It goes both ways.. And it's always best when both the ends and the means are Justified in absence of the other.. So that where we end up is great, and how we got there is great...

My morality shifts.. Sometimes I think it's a bad idea to break into your car that's locked. Other times I will rip your car in half to get a baby out that was overheating. But do I then think the end completely justified the means? In this case I do, but in other instances I would owe some for the property damages..

I like to have the means and the ends closer to 50/50 importance.

edit on 29-5-2015 by KnightLight because: (no reason given)

edit on 29-5-2015 by KnightLight because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 29 2015 @ 09:05 AM
a reply to: Dark Ghost

Unless I'm missing something it's dependent on situation, interpretation and perception?

The means to reach an end can often be more enjoyable than the end... but more important? The end wouldn't be possible without the means so therefore the means are COMPLETELY NECESSARY.

Perhaps importance is judged by the actor/person doing the means? If the person gains from the means, like in your example he/she would say the means were important. If the person gains from the means but isn't really interested in what they have gained (for example some knowledge) - then the end is more important to them than the means.

EDIT: This assumes importance is judged by the doer - what if importance is judged by COMMUNITY - the means may not effect the doer but they drastically effect the community - who decides importance levels? - - Which brings us back to ethics.

EDIT: That said - I am all about the ends
Preferabley short term gains

edit on 29-5-2015 by and14263 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 29 2015 @ 09:13 AM
In an example, lets say you attempted to do something that was relatively harmless, however, due to an accident, something terrible eventuated. Some time after, you were able to discover a positive with respect to the negative, and seized an opportunity.

So, the means was something terrible, however, you did not intend it to be as such, and the end itself was only really formulated after the execution of the "means".

There will always be "shades of grey" because there are very few things that occur in a simple and repeatable fashion.

In another example, lets say that you have a specific want, and you endure hardship/torment in order to obtain it, the means was something negative occurring to you, as opposed to you having to do something negative to somebody else, and of course it is justified because it was totally your own choice to put yourself though such a trial - you would not have done so otherwise,

edit on 29-5-2015 by SystemResistor because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 29 2015 @ 09:54 AM
a reply to: Dark Ghost

"When you're a liar, a person of low moral fortitude, really any explanation you need to be true can be true. Especially if you're smart enough. You can figure out a way to justify anything."

-Samuel Witwer

posted on May, 29 2015 @ 12:16 PM
a reply to: Dark Ghost

I browsed by your thread title a few times before clicking because I wanted to possibly add a dimension to our need for resolve on issues . Putting things in their proper order of rank can over ride actions we may have a tendency to make hastily . I think the basic function of human decision making can be extrapolated from what we observe in the natural world .

I often laugh at the way some progressives go about making their decisions ,(thinking that they have it correct) while failing to notice how they got it wrong .The first principal and order of rank is, elder-ship . Why such a principal is utmost important is because they have been there and done that .Learning from history is very important . If we don't learn then we are sure to repeat the errors . This first principal of rank has been usurped in most institutions we have today and so it's rank of importance in making decisions misplaced .

One of the first groups to have documented in their constitution of the principal of the end,s justifies the means is the Jesuits . They are well known for playing both sides of a conflict in order to be on the winning side .They stressed to their fraternity to give their all in the side of the issue and could expect their brother to do the same . Like basic training in most Militarizes where the convert has to maintain the first principal of order and rank in order to fulfill the ends result , a commander will sacrifice his men to do so . Some will not but will sacrifice themselves for their men .

We wonder of what ideology may be behind ISIL but there is no doubt as to what means they are willing to employ to get those results . We see it employed in political elections where integrity is no where to be seen and the ends justifies the means .A lie will circle the earth a few times before the truth has a chance to stand up . In a lot of cases ,it is too late for the truth of the matter to make a difference and we are left with a mess like Libya or Iraq .

Hawks like John McCain and his bomb bomb bomb Iran is a prime example of the ends justifying the means .Saying's like , if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail is saying that the end justifies the means .If this principal is true then heaven help us .If there is a higher principal then we need to find it . Elder-ship is that principal and should be given the highest rank . imo

Yes new information is always welcomed and considered by those who have become wise by life's experiences and is better factored in by those in that position . The lack of patience and wisdom in youth says that they are not suited to make the decisions needed to maintain the family . It has to come from the Elders . not just a old crusty guy like a John McCain .
edit on 29-5-2015 by the2ofusr1 because: (no reason given)

edit on 29-5-2015 by the2ofusr1 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 29 2015 @ 04:37 PM
I'll let someone a whole lot wiser then I explain:

It's one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace.

The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order.

If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace.

And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace.

What is the problem?

They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal.

We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.

All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is pre-existent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
—"A Christmas Sermon on Peace," 24 December 1967, published in The Trumpet of Conscience

I will repeat:

...means and ends must cohere because the end is pre-existent in the means and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.

In other words - You will become what you hate if you use the same strategy and tactics as those you oppose.

edit on 29-5-2015 by FyreByrd because: (no reason given)

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