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Does intention dictate good or bad?

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by Rex, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. Rex

    Rex Founder

    Mar 15, 2004
    I won't tell
    Let me see if I can lay this down in words.

    Let's use "power" as an example. Power is neither good or bad, unless it's used for that exact intention of good or bad.


    Let's say I have a good intention to use my "power" and save this baby that is about to get hit by a car, but that baby grows up and becomes Adolf Hitler. Now I used the power for good but the outcome is bad.

    Saying that would indicate that having an intention to do something doesn't really mean anything.
  2. Lightkeeper

    Lightkeeper Well-Known Member

    Apr 2, 2004
    No matter what the outcome you would have done the right thing by saving the baby. Once you have done your deed it is out of your hands. The baby made it's own choice about what it would do with it's life. Your intention was good and you couldn't have lived with not saving the baby. When the baby grew up he misused power and his intentions were bad. Some good came out of his bad intentions, we learned not to let anyone like that get a stronghold again. Which brings up another question, can intentions be both bad and good?
  3. Feathers in Hair

    Feathers in Hair World's Tallest Hobbit

    Aug 27, 2004
    Hmm... This is an interesting question. I agree with Lightkeeper that you would have done the right thing by saving the baby. The baby, saved by the same power, could have just as easily grown up to be Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Since you had no way of knowing what would ultimately be done, the only action that you would be responsible, which would be the saving of a life.

    The question of whether intentions can be both bad and good is another interesting one. In most cases where I could see an intention being both, I would see the person as consciously thinking they were doing right, while unconciously (or subconciously) doing the same thing, but with a wrong intent. I apologize for my tendancy to use "Lord of the Rings" analogies, but this is the only one that jumps to mind...

    Boromir (the bearded guy with the horn and shield, for anyone who only saw the commercials) wanted to use the Ring, from his concious thoughts, as a force of good. He thought it would help him defend his country and to bring peace to mankind. Unconciously, (though it wasn't his own soul trying to subvert him, but anothers'), he wanted the thing because of its' power and because, through it, he could control others. He was ultimately tempted by the Ring (can't you just imagine it whistling "Hey, there, cutie!" ;) ) and tried to take it from someone. Although he was able to ultimately redeem himself through his bravery, he didn't recognize the unconcious voice until it was too late. Actually, though, all of this was what partially led to peace being returned to the land. So, as in Lightkeepers' example, there was some ultimate good that came out of it. (I realize that this is fiction, whereas the other is fact, but it was the only example about duality of intent that jumped to mind.)

    Can anyone think of any cases where a person conciously wanted to do wrong, but unconciously wanted (or wound up doing) right?
  4. standing_on_one_foot

    standing_on_one_foot Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2004
    Oh lord, one of my favorite Terry Pratchett quotes and Lord of the Rings stuff, all in one post...Feathersinhair, have I mentioned that I love you?

    Yeah, I suppose intention has a fair amount to do with it. Although I think it's better to do the right thing for the wrong reason than the wrong thing for the right one (mind, right for right would be best). And sometimes, if you don't think things through, good intentions aren't enough to make an action right. Boromir taking the Ring, for example. There are other good (less fictional) examples, I know, but I can't think of any off-hand.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Scott1

    Scott1 Well-Known Member

    Jul 9, 2004
    1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three "sources" of the morality of human acts.

    1758 The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.

    1759 "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

    1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.

    1761 There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.