Does the end justify the means?

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  1. TheGlassSpider profile image65
    TheGlassSpiderposted 13 years ago

    What if, as in LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, we could have utopia, but in order to maintain it each generation would have to choose one innocent child to imprison, neglect, and torture? Would it be worth it?

    What if we could guarantee world peace, but it meant losing all privacy? Would you go for it?

    Does the end justify the means?

    Share your thoughts and hypothetical (or real life!) examples here.

    1. profile image0
      cosetteposted 13 years agoin reply to this


    2. drej2522 profile image69
      drej2522posted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Ehhhh, that's always an odd question to answer because every action is based on a desirable purpose...whether it be for selfish or unselfish reasons...or why else would you do it? So, in a sense, it's all from the perspective of the beholder.

      The real question is...does every action 'you' do justify the means [for you]?

      So, in this light...yes. Everything I do justifies my means.

      See, I never understood why this universal question always had to include something catastrophic in order to make sense of things. Just for arguments’ sake? To test humanity?? So, in this definition, I would have to say no. Killing a relative few to save thousands or millions doesn't justify a damn thing. In the end, all you are really doing is justifying killing people.

      It's all about perspective...which is what makes this question odd in the first place. smile

    3. Cagsil profile image74
      Cagsilposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      The ends never justify the means. This particular method of thinking "the ends justify the means" is completely out of whack. It goes without saying "the survival of the fittest" is another.

      These methods of thinking are ancient and useless in a conscious moral society.

      The simple FACT that morality is severely lacking in the world today, even with all the murders, rapists, serial killers and others, the ends NEVER justify the means.

      As for someone mentioning "World Peace?", and claiming it can never happen?  World Peace can be achieved, provided each person is willing to try to live by a simplistic morality absolute, which seems to exist, but not many know about.

      A simple thing to remember about "Morality", it isn't different per person. It doesn't change or isn't flexible, providing that you WANT to be good or honest, and true to yourself, about who you really are?

      Any chosen action that benefits the human organism or society, is moral right or good.

      Any chosen action that harms the human organism or society, is moral wrong or bad.

      This is fairly simple. I've also heard people talk about morality as being a natural instinct? This is a myth and/or misconception, assumed to be correct.  Unfortunately, it's wrong, because morality is passed down thru generation, after generation, after generation thru a family line.

      Morality is natural? NO!  Morality is Taught! Yes!

      Providing parents teach their kids moral standards, based on these two absolutes, then World Peace, not only becomes a possibility? It becomes a reality, but not for a very long time from now. Which would lead one to believe that since it wouldn't happen in their lifetime, then what's the sense.

      The sense is to be part of the work toward accomplishing that task. It is what will bring you happiness and spirituality of love for the human race.

      Just a thought. smile

      1. wyanjen profile image73
        wyanjenposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        But, monks are not the ones having all the fun... lol

        World peace will never happen. Humans are not above nature, we are a part of it. This means survival of the fittest.
        Morality is a human quality that has certainly contributed to survival. But survival is also a result of pressing forward to improve our conditions, even our quality of life beyond bare necessities. This creates conflict.

        Conflict in turn creates strength and innovation. If all citizens lived according to a single simplistic absolute, we'd have a peaceful but languishing society that would ultimately not survive.

        Don't take my argument to mean that I'm in favor of a state of constant war. I agree completely with your statement "The sense is to be part of the work toward accomplishing that task. It is what will bring you happiness and spirituality of love for the human race."
        This is a cornerstone of Humanism.

  2. carolina muscle profile image68
    carolina muscleposted 13 years ago

    I think the end does not justify the means.. that the end is defined in some important ways by the means used to obtain it; that ultimate good cannot be accomplished by evil means.

  3. wyanjen profile image73
    wyanjenposted 13 years ago

    I can't improve on that answer, carolina muscle. smile

    This movie is a great example IMO.

    The Beach.
    There is a colony of folks living on a hidden island beach. It is a free, beautiful, loving paradise.

    One of the members of the community gets attacked by a shark.

    If they take him to the mainland for medical help, the location of their beach would be revealed. In order to keep their paradise secret, they let him die.

    They continue on just as they did before the accident. But once you know what they did to create their paradise, every beautiful thing seems like complete evil.

  4. TheGlassSpider profile image65
    TheGlassSpiderposted 13 years ago

    Great answers! Thanks for responding.

    @Carolina: I like what you said about the end being somehow defined by the means.

    @Wyan: Thank you for the movie recommendation; I have not seen that one, but I'm looking forward to checking it out.

    Do you think that most people believe that the end does not justify the means?

  5. prettydarkhorse profile image56
    prettydarkhorseposted 13 years ago


    Like when somebody would like to kill all people or cull population so that everybody has something to eat or have a perfect race,,,

  6. Colebabie profile image61
    Colebabieposted 13 years ago

    I agree with you dre. And HI by the way!! smile

    1. drej2522 profile image69
      drej2522posted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I agree with me too! And Heya!! How goes it?

      1. Colebabie profile image61
        Colebabieposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Watching "With Honors" and folding laundry. Work in a few. smile

        1. drej2522 profile image69
          drej2522posted 13 years agoin reply to this

          With, I really need to start watching TV again...I don't know what is what. smile

          1. Colebabie profile image61
            Colebabieposted 13 years agoin reply to this

            It is a movie smile You should watch it, one of my favs.

  7. Jeffrey Neal profile image73
    Jeffrey Nealposted 13 years ago

    No, the end does not justify the means in your example of trading privacy for peace. 

    CM's post is good and reminds me of this quote:

    An idealist believes that the short run doesn't count. A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run. --Sidney J. Harris

  8. Shadesbreath profile image81
    Shadesbreathposted 13 years ago

    I would say "no" because the caveat for peace you suggest would fail too quickly. Rebellion would foment too quickly and the society so bound would crumble too quickly, possibly long before a second generation could be born into it. It would require an unmerciful (fascist) degree of enforcement, a social order which history has proven never lasts long.

    The rule set, no privacy, or "having to choose one innocent child" to sacrafice or, as in the movie The Beach, the isolation of the infirm in a sort of death ritual, has to be able to survive the reality of human beings.

    What you are describing is the adoption of a belief set that justifies a set of actions done for the maintenance of a particular social order. In essence, you are defining a hypothetical religion, and asking if we would be willing to join the cult from which that religion would be born (aka, like that story or that movie... both birthing cults which, had they survived to a second and third generation might become sects, and, given continued success, eventually might reach religion status.)

    Note: religion does not have to proclaim God/gods, and many don't proclaim anything divine/magical in the early stages of their development (cults are often merely "good" ideas based on a charismatic singular figure... your story, that movie, Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith ... from which disciples keep it alive etc.).  Divine and magical stuff often (but not always) are added in or expanded later as less charismatic or less wise leadership has to explain nuanced questions to a growing populace - because human populations always grow if they are not dying out, which would, obviously, explain why particular faiths die out too.

    So there, me being long-winded as usual (bored on a Saturday morning).  Fun question.

  9. drej2522 profile image69
    drej2522posted 13 years ago

    I'll put it on my 'to do' list. smile

  10. wyanjen profile image73
    wyanjenposted 13 years ago

    The most important human endeavor is
    the striving for morality in our actions.
    Our inner balance and even our very existence
    depend on it. Only morality in our actions
    can give beauty and dignity to life.
    - Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

    There cannot be a utopia without morality.

    Regarding world peace: this will never happen. We can only work toward minimum conflict.
    I came back today because I forgot to mention this last night: there is no freedom without a right to privacy. So, even if world peace WAS possible, then no - I would not give up my right to privacy to get it.

    smile Thanks for the great forum.

  11. TheGlassSpider profile image65
    TheGlassSpiderposted 13 years ago

    I just love all the thoughtful responses to this question.

    Shadesbreath: I love how you've applied practicality to your response. People love to read about and think about philosophical questions, but how do they actually affect us in our day-to-day life, and how do those answers apply to reality? I think those are questions we need to remember to pay attention to...and you have. Do you think there are issues happening today in which people are trying to use an end to justify a means...or does society basically have this question wrapped up?

    drej: A very interesting response. Is there anything that's universal or applicable to everyone? What if I think something is justifiable, but you think it impedes you? Whose actions are justifiable then, and how shall we decide?

    The LeGuin story is a bit fanciful, but when it comes down the idea of peace vs. privacy--I can see a trend in governments today to actually try to sell this idea. I.e., let us (goverment) put cameras everywhere, taps on all the phones, satellites all over the skies...we'll be able to see everything you do, but we'll keep you all safe. This may be more of a trend in the US than anywhere...I may be being paranoid. But it seems to me that people are buying it. I see it as a question that has a direct impact on how we live and what we allow.

    Wyan: I'm glad you've enjoyed this thread. I was hoping to find a subject that people could talk about without getting crummy with one another...although it seems only a select few of us find it remotely interesting. I really enjoyed the quotes you shared, and I just love how you said that "There cannot be utopia without morality." Thank you for your insights.

    How do you guys think our answers to this question are reflected in things like laws, behaviors, and people's lives in general?

  12. FranyaBlue profile image79
    FranyaBlueposted 13 years ago

    The Prophet Mohammed(PBUH)said:

    know that what misleads you will never enable you to do right, and what enables you to do right will never mislead you.


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