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Under what circumstances do the ends justify the means?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by robtex, Apr 13, 2006.

  1. angellous_evangellous

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    Where? Which one?

    EDIT: I have to ask, because as a descriptor it is imprecise if none of the premises used can sustain such a description. It describes a heirarchy that we must reject if the description is precise.
     
  2. evearael

    evearael Well-Known Member

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    I'll open myself to the flood of criticism.

    I prioritize protecting my family over protecting a murderer. If a murderer attacked my family, I would kill him, even if there was a chance of subdual, because the risk to the lives of my family for failing to subdue him is unacceptable. While I would argue that I killed, but did not murder, many would disagree with me. Killing or murder prevented murder. While this could be described as the ends sometimes justifying the means, it is not the premise for it. Your turn for an example, Angellous.
     
  3. angellous_evangellous

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    This description is imprecise.

    You are not justifying the murder by "ends justifying the means" as an ethical premise, so you cannot describe it as such. Even if you were to try and justify the action with this descriptor as a premise, the action would be unethical.

    Your actions are ethically defensible by an obligation ethic to protect your family.

    EDIT: I will be in class for the rest of the afternoon, so I will be unable to respond for a while. Happy reading,
     
  4. evearael

    evearael Well-Known Member

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    I know it will be awhile until you can get back to me... So, by your logic it is unacceptable to use any descriptors other than the premise, even if the connotation aren't as negative? I agree that a system based on the premise of ends & means is unethical, but as a descriptor... it is a matter of spin. You can spin an ethics system in a positive and negative light, and just because a single descriptor has a negative or positive spin does not validate or invalidate the ethics system; it is merely a singled out aspect without reference to the overall system.
     
  5. Darkdale

    Darkdale World Leader Pretend

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    The ends always justify the means, but it depends entirely upon the context of that age old question, For Whom The Good?

    Ends justify means, not the other way around. But there is no way to answer, philosophically, in which cases this is agreeable to all, to some, or to none.
     
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  6. angellous_evangellous

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    Yes. It's imprecise and wrong because the ends don't justify the means, but the ethical principles that one applied in making the choice justified the means.
    It's not about spin. It's about applying appropriate descriptors to our logic, or calling a spade a spade when logic isn't used.
     
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  7. angellous_evangellous

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    This statement is bankrupt in every possible way: rationally, ethically, philosophically, and morally.

    This statement can never be used to make an ethical choice, or even to validate any action as ethical or morally right. No ethical choice can be justified with the axiom "the ends justify the means" because it is deviod of all ethical questions. That axiom kills fellowship and destroys humanity.

    May it never pass from our lips or enter our hearts or minds! It is poison!
     
  8. Darkdale

    Darkdale World Leader Pretend

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    lol Nothing else can justify means but ends. Otherwise there is no logic for action. I take it you dig Kant?
     
  9. angellous_evangellous

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    No one can know the ends until after the fact. No one can make a value judgement on something that has not yet occured, so if we even try to think about making a choice based on means justifying ends, we are basing our entire choice on something that we cannot ethically evaluate! It's wrong to toss out ethics when we are pretending or outright lying that we are making an ethical choice.

    It is only by evaluating the means alone that we can make an ethical choice. Saying that the ends justify the means is completely irrational and mostly propaganda and/or lies by people who are taking advantage of or killing others.

    I have not read Kant.
     
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  10. finalfrogo

    finalfrogo Well-Known Member

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    I agree. It seems to general... there are too many possibilities to give an accurate answer. I would say, however, that I do not believe the ends justify the means under most circumstances. If one sets out to do dark deeds, but accidentally executes good deeds, this does not make one good, for he aimed to do wrong. This makes me wonder, do actions define people, or do intentions define people? :areyoucra
     
  11. Darkdale

    Darkdale World Leader Pretend

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    All decisions are made with expected outcomes, or ends. No one acts for no reason. Maybe we need to discuss what we mean by “justify”. Good intentions are often used to "justify" horrible or stupid acts. Looking at behavior from the outside, we justify the ends by virtue of the implicit value we attach to them.

    Look, ethics don't measure means or ends in and of themselves, but values. The ends and the means are both judged, ethically, according to the values that precede it (the reason; intent; ends) and the values we attach to the way in which it is carried out. So in that sense, the ends don't justify the means, and the means don't justify the ends. But the ends explain the means, which is all I really meant. Maybe we agree.
     
  12. evearael

    evearael Well-Known Member

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    Ah! Now, I understand what you're getting at. :)
     
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  13. angellous_evangellous

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    If we agree, then we must reject the phrase "the ends justify the means" altogether.

    I like this post, but I will argue that we use ethical principles to evaluate the "means" - the "means" being defined as actions that are the result of choices. Yes, I realize that the goal of ethics, my expertise being bioethics, does have the results or "ends" in mind, but the "means" must be justified in and of themselves in order to be ethical. The ends simply can never justify the means.
     
  14. angellous_evangellous

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    Whew :kissbette
     
  15. Darkdale

    Darkdale World Leader Pretend

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    But the means cannot be explained without the ends. The value of the end creates an understanding of why the means occurred in the first place. Then, we have to judge the means by themselves, but you cannot exclude the ends, or you'll fail to understand the means. Does that make sense? But, as long as you don’t think the means justify the ends, ethically speaking, and that we have to judge each aspect independently, then I agree with you.
     
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  16. angellous_evangellous

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    Now let's carefully think about how this statement:

    Relates to this statement:
    In the words of my wife:

    Now that's a powerful but!
     
  17. Mister Emu

    Mister Emu Emu Extraordinaire
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    I personally find killing people unethical...

    If a person were going to kill children, I am pretty sure I would kill the person if it came to it... the ends(saving children) to me justify what I consider an unethical action(killing someone).
     
  18. D.L. Dallman

    D.L. Dallman New Member

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    I would submit that the ends justify the means when the result is a group benefit. I suppose it will be apparent here that I am not an objectivist... but...

    I feel that if, hypothetically, you are attempting to throw off repressive theocratic rule (in your own nation), and a certain number of people die in the course of the revolution, even those that are not willingly taking part, the end justifies the means.

    Most selfish goals, though... need to be made with regard to circumstances.
     
  19. Fluffy

    Fluffy A fool

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    The ends never justify the means. If the ends appear to justify the means, this is in fact due to an inconsistency in one's moral structure normally occuring between the emotional and rational components.

    I believe that there are 3 parts to any action which need to be analysed in order for moral judgement to made: the intention, the method and the outcome. The intention is the most important of the three whilst the latter two are of equal but lesser importance. This is derived from the idea that the method and outcome are reliant on one's intentions so whilst it is possible that one could intend good and end up committing evil and vice versa, this is almost entirely due to outside factors beyond a person's control. This leads to the conclusion that the method and the outcome of an action are pretty much irrelevant with regards to judging its morality since the two are so utterly dependent on the intention.

    Therefore, I consider the ends and the means to be equally unimportant, generally speaking, as far as justification is considered.
     
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