Do The Ends Justify The Means?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Liquidtruth, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. A simple question really, do the ends justify the means? If you believe you are right and what you are doing is for the greater good, do you believe you can commit evil acts to accomplish that good? If committing genocide meant that you, and everyone else, could live a happy and free life, would you do it? Of course, the answer to this question could be dependent on the situation, so, if you can think of an answer that looks at both sides of the coin, feel free to share. Tell me, what ends would justify the means, and what would not?
  2. Depends. What are the ends, and what are the means?

    I'm not a big fan of dichotomy, so reducing a dilemma to either or, is a bit too simplistic. There is almost always a third (or more) way. That said, from time to time push do come to shove.

    Since I got a great interest in WW2 history, I got several examples to go by. For example, the end of defeating fascism did require the means of war. Though the end of demoralizing the german population did not require the means of terrorbombing as demonstrated over Dresden and Cologne amongst others.

    Basically it boils down to morals. A high moral, that is doing the best one can to be good to most possible in a given timespan, also means that one should limit the harm put on any group of people for a given timespan.

    As such the decision to fight the fascists was right. It have saved the world a lot of grief since WW2. Democracy won, and we are all the better for it.
  3. That is for you to decide! :)

    Yes, there are always other ways, but the "ends justify the means" tends to conjure images of great evil done in the name of great good, or vice versa.

    I would not agree that it was defeated, and like communism, certain (favorable) aspect were adopted by "democracy". If we do not have state sponsored corporatism right now I do not know what we have, but that is probably better debated in another thread. :)

    Certainly, but what is moral and what is not? Is there a logical basis (as I believe there is) for morals? If there is a universal truth it applies to all, are morals universally true, or does it depend upon perception? How do we judge them, how do we measure them, what makes something moral?

    Yes, fighting Hitler was right, but, was Hitler's Final Solution right? That is the question. That is a "ends justify the means" scenario.

  4. No, that is a "ends justify the means" scenario. :)

    And obviously immoral, seeing as it was based upon a false dogma (jewish evil conspiracy), did a lot of harm (genocide and war) and served no-one but a small elite (sacrificing most for the good of the few).
  5. LMAO, yes, indeed, you are right. :p

    Yes, it was immoral and worthless. But, can you think of any situation where the ends would justify the means? (using the above example as a loose template?)
  6. i say it is dependant on the situation. theres so many examples for this.

    a kid wants a ferrari and loads of drugs, he decides to join a gang and kill people to get the money. this one i would say the ends dont justify the means, petty material objects arent worth human life.

    a kid needs food and shelter, he decides to join a gang and kill people. this one is tougher as the person has to survive. so is one life worth another? is one life worth several?
  7. Id say no, in most cases utilitarianism isnt a good idea.
    It offers no protection to the minority and may lead to corruption in its extreme cases
    whoever is in the majority has all the power

    2 of the most common examplles ive seen used are:
    Whether or not torturing terrorist or other 'enemies' to find out more information which may lead to saving the lives of thousands

    And some utilitaranists will argue that slavery of one race to benefit another race is alright
  8. After about six years old our brains develop to the point that we can grasp the concept of fairness for the first time. without the concept of something being right, the concept of wrong cannot exist. A little child may act in destructive ways not because he is evil but because the concepts of social, moral, and religious ethics have not as yet been instilled in him.

    It's similar to saying that without a law system, one cannot know what is the law is, ie. illegal or legal.

    Dr. Katz's new book through pages 65 to 71 speaks on this subject well, that 'a noble end is never justified by the use of immoral means employed to reach that goal, It is not justified,' he argues, 'because the means used serve to corrupt that end-in-view...'
    A parable:

    Cannibalism had just about died out on this remote island. But one man wanted to make sure it had. He became suspicious that his neighbor might be the last cannibal left. So he decided to eat his neighbor. As he did, he said to himself: "Now I will have wiped out cannibalism on this entire island."

    Was there something wrong with his logic?

    In any situation, what would save more lives?
    This question then just becomes a matter of expediency...
  9. Explain the necessity of the Hiroshima bomb.

    Then tell me why we bombed Nagasaki? The war was over, Japan was in shock, and we did it again? Was that justified by the treaty ending the war? Man's inhumanity to man took a giant leap forward that day.
  10. It was all about the USSR. The US felt threatened by communism even though we were the ones threatening the USSR. We needed to show the USSR that we had the most destructive weapon of all time and intimidate them. It wasn't about Japan at all.
  11. Exactly, it was a showing not only of force, but of a new national tolerance for cruelty, a huge reminder to the world that USA was the new superpower. But wasn't Hiroshima a big enough reminder? After the carpet bombing of Tokyo had taken even more lives than both of those nuclear bombs would? Nuclear weapons are totally unnecessary, we have proven that we can and will level everything plenty of times, Dresden, Germany, for example.

    This is the source of national guilt that has caused the conscience of most americans to ignore the fact that we continue to be a worldwide source of irritation. The monkeys with the biggest clubs, don't have to care if they have to kill. They just get really, really good at it, and hope the other apes don't challenge them. Threatening and Intimidation are a means I personally like to avoid, no matter what ends I am trying to achieve. I know most people don't respond well to them, IMHO, it breeds deep resentments.
  12. and shit, why are we using depleted uranium in iraq?

    We're knowingly causing vast ecological damage there...

    It's something that never gets talked about, but the environmental impacts of war can be devastating...

    and the US government/military is one of the biggest polluters out there. They're exempt from most if not all environmental legislation.

    why the hell is Blackwater over there? Do they have free reign? Who governs them?

    Why aren't we all more aware of the 1.2 million Iraqi deaths? That's what 5% of their population? These are pretty horrific means to an end which I completely disagree with, and about 70% of the American people are against this war. Why does it continue?
  13. We nuked Japan as a real scenario test. We were done with all the other experiments, just needed to see it live. Even though Japan had already lost the war before nuking them.

    Instead of writing a whole lot on why the ends don't justify the means, I will keep it simple. The ends don't justify the means. Example Iraq War #2.
  14. What if you were able to usher in an age of peace and reason, that would last for 10,000 years, no more wars, famine, hunger, disease, murders, violence, or wrong doings would occur. The world would be at a true peace. The catch is, in order to usher in this Utopian age, you had to kill 3 billion people. If you did not go ahead with it, things would continue to get worse, more wars would be fought with more powerful weapons, the strong would beat down the weak, and the rich would get richer as the poor slowly starved to death. So, would the ends justify the means in that situation? Would you go ahead and do it? If so, why, and if not, why not?

  15. If you choose to say that violence is ALWAYS wrong, then at least you have the virtue of being consistent. But if you agree that violence is sometimes ethical, then acts of violence can only be judged by the context in which they occur. If as you hold with me, that violence can only be justified by self defense, then the invasion of Iraq, even if it was believed the motives, that the war is ethically wrong. It is wrong if you look at it this way because even if the ends (democracy, freedom, you name the cliche) are ethically right, the means consists if initiating violence against someone who did not initiate violence against the collective “you.”

    In WW II The US responded to the attacks on the community of people, by the Japanese and the Germans and acted to defend themselves/yourselves.
    Meaning that it was, in many ways - ethically right.

    We engage in warfare to eliminate the threat of terrorism, but most times not realizing that you (US) may look like the real terrorists in the eyes of the world.

    Yea, i too believe this man, You cannot strip human decision making from the context in which it occurs. You cannot define a “means” as unethical, without looking into the context. If such were not the case, there would be no ethical dilemmas, answers would be quite simple indeed.

    Meaning, can you use ethicaly flawed means to justify ethical ends.
    I would hold that we cannot and should not use ethically flawed means.

    But suppose someone uses violence against you with the goal of taking your life; is it ethically wrong to respond with violence to save your life? Is the morality of ethics merely a discussion on various ways to commit suicide? Is it ethically Wrong to defend yourself when attacked?

    If you believe it to be wrong, always wrong, ethically wrong, are you not saying that not only is it wrong for YOU to defend yourself, but it is equally wrong for a policeman to defend you. Equally wrong for a friend to defend you?

    In short, you have argued yourself into the position where those who have no ethics, will always have their way.

    That the civilization that allows you to posit your views, will in fact collapse, when and if your view of ethics becomes the law of the land.

    We engage in warfare to eliminate the threat of terrorism, but most times not realizing that you (US) may look like the real terrorists in the eyes of the world. Which can be quite a sad turn of events - ethically.
  16. LMFAO!!!! You believe that? How, pray tell, is a war in Iraq helping to "eliminate the threat of terrorism"?

    I guess no one enjoys a good what if scenario. :(

  17. :smoke:
    I cannot say i fully understand the war.. being an outsider

    But what i do see perhaps, is that violence can only really be justified by self defense, then the invasion of Iraq, you can argue - even if it was believed that the stated motives of the Bush administration, that the war is ethically wrong.

    If killing is ALWAYS ethically wrong, then we'd better have a long talk with God. Because He knocks off people by the billions...
  18. I dont think the ends justifies the means. i think that there needs to be a way found that the means can compensate the end. where no one is hurt for the end result .

    I realize this is hardly ever the case. but we must search for the best means and not the easiest way but more of a way that is peaceful where no one can be harmed . because remeber this world wasnt always dominated by humans. we stole it from animals . we must think of their best intrests if we are to ever co-exist...
  19. Fighting a war on terror is impossible, for the creation of terror is the central theme of all war. Does it matter who the terrified party is?

    Waging a peace on terror would be more effective, but of course not as much money for the ghouls and goblins of our Military Vampire economy to make.

    In case you haven't noticed, the USA has been stirring up the hornet's nest for a long time, starting with the bombing of Nagasaki, and continuing through the present day. We are NEVER without some HORRIBLE DICTATOR or COMMUNIST or ISLAMOFASCIST to fight. That is because we are a war based economy, simple. Enemies are everywhere we steal from, right?
  20. You got a good point. How did our great country even come about? War. We even had a major civil war.

    EDIT - To respond to the OP, I don't think such a vague question could be given such a definite answer, it's entirely situational.

    Would killing somebody because they cut in front of you in line at the grocery store be an end justified by its means? Not at all.

    Would working your ass off in school to get a college scholarship and get a good job after college etc. be an end justified by its means? Fuck yes it would.

Share This Page