• Ends and Means

    There are two competing philosophies (with minor variations between them).*

    On the one hand, you have the people who believe that the ends justify the means. On the other hand are the people that believe that the ends do not justify the means. Obviously, this is not a purely binary solutions set and there is a range of decisions.

    The majority of people I’ve talk to and read say that the ends never justify the means. This means that a noble result should not be accomplished by evil deeds. We could potentially end terrorism by killing religious, political, and behavioral fanatics. The end of terrorism, of violence, is a noble goal. But accomplishing that by murder is not.

    But there is not a single member of that group (I hypothesize that there is not a single member of the human race old enough to speak) who has not told a lie to get out of trouble. All children have done it and I suspect all adults have done it. You may have told your spouse that they are dressed nicely, but you really hated that outfit.

    You may think that’s a silly example, but I’m serious. The end (not having a fight, making your spouse feel better) does justify the means (lying to them).

    At what point does the means become too much for the ends?

    Hypothetical example.

    A woman, who happens to be a black belt martial artist walks down an alley and is attacked by 3 muggers with knifes. She fights back, killing one and seriously injuring the other two.

    A woman, who happens to be a black belt martial artist walks down an alley knowing that there is a group of violent muggers who the police will do nothing about. She attacks, killing one and seriously injuring the other two.

    Is there a difference? Why? Are both acceptable because the muggers are breaking the law? Is it acceptable to break one law to enforce another?

    Feel free to jump with some on-topic comments.


    *  I realize that there are probably philosophical tomes devoted to this topic and I’m not exactly breaking new ground here. That’s not the point. One can read all the philosophy that one wants, but I think that until one experiences it and thinks it through for themselves that one cannot really embrace the ideas. That’s part of what I want to accomplish here. Think about these ideas for myself and come up with valid reasons and conclusions for the way I think… or change the way I think if I cannot.

    Category: CulturePhilosophySkepticismSociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat