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Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-12-2009, 08:56 PM
A philosophical question for everyone...

Do the ends justify the means, or do the means justify the ends?

Thoth's Answer: I am always on the side of The Ends Justifies the Means.

It may not make me a lot of friends, heck, i may even lose some from it. But one thing is for certain, to me, anyway, is that The End Always Justifies the Means.

Which path do you tend to follow, and why?

Webhead
05-12-2009, 09:45 PM
Of course, the entire concept of this thread leads to nothing more than individual opinion, but here's mine:

"The ends are as important as the means and Evil is never justified."

Oh, sure, people may convince themselves that an act of Evil is "neccessary", but that does not make its employment "justified".

To provide a sampling to help people understand where I'm coming from and where I'm going with this, I will use it in terms of capital-G "Good" and capital-E "Evil":

1) Using Good means to achieve a Good end is Good.

2) Using Evil means to achieve an Evil end is Evil.

3) Using Evil means to achieve a Good end is Evil.

4) Using Good means to achieve an Evil end is Evil.

Again, that's my opinion. Take it for what you will and, by all means, feel free to ask questions. :)

Sascha
05-12-2009, 10:09 PM
If all things are equal, yes. If inequalities exist, then no.

In practice, not all things are equal, therefore the ends do not always justify the means. What percentage of ends/means are justified, well, that's far too complex an answer to even try without specific cases ;)

Grazak
05-12-2009, 10:09 PM
I am sort of in agreement with Webhead except that I believe that it is only what we do that defines us. By that I mean that it is only the means that matter. If in attempting to do good you inadvertently cause harm it is to be forgiven since your motives were pure. On the other hand if you do evil to bring about some "greater good" you are still doing evil.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-12-2009, 10:21 PM
A couple of things to ponder:

END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS -- "The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote in Electra (c 409 B.C.), 'The end excuses any evil,' a thought later rendered by the Roman poet Ovid as 'The result justifies the deed' in 'Heroides' (c. 10 B.C.)." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

Another source explains the phrase as meaning: "Anything is acceptable if it leads to a successful result."

Cf. [Ovid Heroides ii. 85] exitus acta probat, the outcome justifies the deeds. The negative of this is also often asserted.

The ende good, doeth not by and by make the meanes good.
[1583 G. Babington Exposition of Commandments 260]

The End must justify the Means: He only Sins who Ill intends.
[1718 M. Prior Literary Works (1971) I. 186]

Webhead
05-12-2009, 10:25 PM
...If in attempting to do good you inadvertently cause harm it is to be forgiven since your motives were pure...

I will agree with this statement with the additional commentary below to expand upon and qualify my response:

If attempting to use Good means toward a Good end and Evil is inadvertantly engendered, then yes, the initial stain of that Evil is not upon the instigator's soul...but it leads to a secondary circumstance that becomes their responsibility and requires their attention:

If, upon realizing that their actions have created Evil, the instigator does not seek to resolve that Evil in an appropriate manner, choosing instead to ignore or avoid it, then that person falls victim to "Evil through inaction". If they do seek to help correct the Evil that was done, they are proving their dedication to the cause of Good and can be absolved.

This does not mean that the instigator "personally" resolves the Evil, but simply seeks out initiating Good means to resolve it to a Good end.

:)

jade von delioch
05-12-2009, 10:33 PM
If i read the poll right, we are all wusses when it comes to making the hard decisions.

Webhead
05-12-2009, 10:38 PM
If i read the poll right, we are all wusses when it comes to making the hard decisions.

Why do you say that? I happen to know very specifically and firmly where I stand on the issue! :D

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-12-2009, 10:51 PM
I will agree with this statement with the additional commentary below to expand upon and qualify my response:

If attempting to use Good means toward a Good end and Evil is inadvertantly engendered, then yes, the initial stain of that Evil is not upon the instigator's soul...but it leads to a secondary circumstance that becomes their responsibility and requires their attention:

If, upon realizing that their actions have created Evil, the instigator does not seek to resolve that Evil in an appropriate manner, choosing instead to ignore or avoid it, then that person falls victim to "Evil through inaction". If they do seek to help correct the Evil that was done, they are proving their dedication to the cause of Good and can be absolved.

This does not mean that the instigator "personally" resolves the Evil, but simply seeks out initiating Good means to resolve it to a Good end.

:)
Evil through inaction is a dangerous concept, and flawed. Evil is not evil if the original intent wasn't evil, no matter what the outcome. Evil doesn't manifest on its own. Evil is created through evil intent, not poor results of ones good intentions. There isn't any secondary circumstance here. Just your point of view. Which is cool, for this was the intention of this thread, thereby making this thread a success.

I like these kinds of threads, for all participating, and even those that dont, are challenged to dig deep inside and think about their views of the world. There is really no right and wrong answer to my original question. There are just differing points of view, or perspectives. All valid and to be respected.

Webhead, your answer most of all, challenges one to go beyond him or herself and try to see, and understand, anothers perspective/s, and i both appreciate and respect your response, even if i don't agree with it.

Thanks for participating, btw.

mrken
05-12-2009, 10:55 PM
On the surface I must agree with Webhead, but there can and are mitigating circumstances from time to time.

Thoth is right in that sometimes one must do something that is wrong to arrive at a good conclusion, well, sometimes we do wrong.

Please go back with me to the 40's and a place where people were being arrested and sent to places to be killed in mass. Some people would hid these persecuted people to protect them from harm. In doing so they had to break the law, lie and sometimes steal. Even other things that would be considered morally wrong. They did these things and still felt justified. I must say I believe they were right.

Nothing can be written in stone. There are not hard and fast rules in moral dilemmas. We must make the choices as we find them using our own moral compass. And it will be us alone who will be judged for our decisions.

Webhead
05-12-2009, 11:08 PM
Evil through inaction is a dangerous concept, and flawed. Evil is not evil if the original intent wasn't evil, no matter what the outcome. Evil doesn't manifest on its own. Evil is created through evil intent, not poor results of ones good intentions. There isn't any secondary circumstance here...

And though I don't completely agree, I find it refreshing to have such a discussion in an open and civil manner. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own point of view which is the culmination of all the life experiences that they have had leading up to the present moment. As no two people share the exact same life experiences, so too will no two people develop the exact same opinion.


...I like these kinds of threads, for all participating, and even those that dont, are challenged to dig deep inside and think about their views of the world. There is really no right and wrong answer to my original question. There are just differing points of view, or perspectives. All valid and to be respected.

Webhead, your answer most of all, challenges one to go beyond him or herself and try to see, and understand, anothers perspective/s, and i both appreciate and respect your response, even if i don't agree with it.

Thanks for participating, btw.

I agree, and thank you. My personal life philosophy is that one's mind should be open to analyzing all possibilities to help piece together greater and more profound truths. To me, knowledge is like evolution; it is in a constant state of metamorphosis. The Truth (capital-T) is not a quantifiable answer so much as it is a pursuit of understanding of where the question leads us.

Sascha
05-13-2009, 02:07 AM
A couple of things to ponder:

END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS -- "The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote in Electra (c 409 B.C.), 'The end excuses any evil,' a thought later rendered by the Roman poet Ovid as 'The result justifies the deed' in 'Heroides' (c. 10 B.C.)." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

Another source explains the phrase as meaning: "Anything is acceptable if it leads to a successful result."

Cf. [Ovid Heroides ii. 85] exitus acta probat, the outcome justifies the deeds. The negative of this is also often asserted.

The ende good, doeth not by and by make the meanes good.
[1583 G. Babington Exposition of Commandments 260]

The End must justify the Means: He only Sins who Ill intends.
[1718 M. Prior Literary Works (1971) I. 186]
"Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action
Avoid attraction to the fruits, and attachment to inaction.
Perform actions, firm in discipline, relinquishing attachment
Be impartial to failure and success - this equanimity is called discipline."
Bhagavad Gita (as quoted in Ethics for Life: A Text with Reading, third edition; Judith A. Boss; pp.297-8)

***

"There is nothing in the world so sacred as the rights of others."
Immanuel Kant, "Duties Dictated by Justice"

***

"Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. By virtue of this, he has rights and duties, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. These rights are therefore universal, inviolable, and inalienable."
Pope John XXIII, "Pacem in terris"


Please go back with me to the 40's and a place where people were being arrested and sent to places to be killed in mass. Some people would hid these persecuted people to protect them from harm. In doing so they had to break the law, lie and sometimes steal. Even other things that would be considered morally wrong. They did these things and still felt justified. I must say I believe they were right.
That wasn't so much a case of ends justifying the means (though it could be viewed that way), but more of duty and rights ethics; when one only sees one moral course of action, it's not really a choice.

The whole situation lead to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_declaration_of_human_rights) in 1948, and the quote above from Pope John XXIII in 1963, among others. It also brought us the Civil Rights movement, and the current rights debates we as Americans face today.

Or, to illustrate with a pop culture reference:

Sheriff Bourne (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001344/): [...] But a man learns all the details of a situation like ours... well... then he has a choice.
Mal (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0277213/): I don't believe he does.
Firefly, 1.2, "The Train Job"

Panthro82
05-13-2009, 04:21 PM
In this day and age evil and good are merely opinions....they depend on the individual. As you get older(even at 27 I am starting to realize this) that the concept of good and evil isnt ever that cut and dry. There are simply actions....and a ton of gray matter in between.

Webhead
05-13-2009, 08:11 PM
...*snippity*...

All very well put, Sascha, including the Firefly quote.

Baron_Samedi
05-13-2009, 08:37 PM
Depends on if you're playing, er, living... within your alignment.

Talmek
05-13-2009, 11:05 PM
Imagine this, if you will...

You have the ability to cure <insert debilitating, eventually fatal illness here> and eradicate it from the human race, but in order to do so you must kill one six year old child to create the cure.

How about two? How about a hundred? How about a thousand?

If you say yes, put yourself behind the needle as he/she looks at you. Could you still do it?

Discuss.

P.S. I know it's morbid, but would the ends justify the means then?

Dytrrnikl
05-14-2009, 10:00 AM
A fairly interesting topic for debate, and one not easily answered. I have stated in answers to other threads that "the ends cannot justify the means". I stand by that. If one believes and lives by "The ends justifies the means", then your saying that no matter the cost, the goal is the only thing that matters. That's extremism, fantacism, and zealotry all together. We all want to accomplish different things, but this isn't the way to do it. The Watchman had this illustrated in full color and most recently on the big screen...The world is heading to nuclear war, so Ozymandius decides that in order to prevent the nations of the world from nuking each other, it's ok to kill (let's call it what it really is, MASS MURDER) 8 million or so people in New York under the guise of an alien attack. What happened in the end? No Nuclear War. What a great message that Alan Moore put out there...it's horse<censored>.

As for the means justifying the end, one cannot subscribe to that either. Benevolent actions can lead to horrible outcomes, even when something is done with the best of intentions. Look at what the Bush administration did with the United States. He and his supporters, Democrat and Republican alike, decided that the US had to take pre-emptive action...the means...in order to protect the United States...to justify the ends. What happened? This country went from exporting Hope to exporting Fear.

Just my two cents.
--- Merged from Double Post ---

You have the ability to cure <insert debilitating, eventually fatal illness here> and eradicate it from the human race, but in order to do so you must kill one six year old child to create the cure.

Absolutely not. This is a despicable act no matter the cause. The human race is not worth the life of one child.


How about two? How about a hundred? How about a thousand?

Sounds like mass murder to me.


...put yourself behind the needle as he/she looks at you. Could you still do it?

I would give up my own life, to cure an incurable illness for my wife and children if we had any of our own. Everyone else could die. My wife's life is the only life I value above my own. The human race can go rot.

I've stuck my neck out for lots of people...I even grabbed the blade of a 6 inch chef's knife, bare-handed with the sharp edge of the knife in the palm of my hand, to stop someone I had just met from stabbing a guy that had put the knife to his throat...the guy I just met managed to turn the knife away from his throat and was driving it back at the other guy...the guy that put the knife to his throat was a friend (at the time, no longer) that I had known for years. I'd do it again too without hesitating. Risking injury to help someone else is one thing I can and have done and feel comfortable doing it too.

Sascha
05-14-2009, 03:15 PM
A fairly interesting topic for debate, and one not easily answered. I have stated in answers to other threads that "the ends cannot justify the means". I stand by that. If one believes and lives by "The ends justifies the means", then your saying that no matter the cost, the goal is the only thing that matters. That's extremism, fantacism, and zealotry all together. We all want to accomplish different things, but this isn't the way to do it. The Watchman had this illustrated in full color and most recently on the big screen...The world is heading to nuclear war, so Ozymandius decides that in order to prevent the nations of the world from nuking each other, it's ok to kill (let's call it what it really is, MASS MURDER) 8 million or so people in New York under the guise of an alien attack. What happened in the end? No Nuclear War. What a great message that Alan Moore put out there...it's horse<censored>.
Well, there's ample evidence - namely, the entire Black Freighter show-in-a-show - that points to Veidt being quite the 'villain' of the piece; even the movie had a brilliant touch, with the South Pole fortress statue containing the Shelley quote ("My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"). Veidt is hubris personified.

Adrian Veidt: I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end.
Dr. Manhattan: 'In the end'? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.

cplmac
05-14-2009, 06:53 PM
Ug! Now my head hurts. Since I in no way consider myself a philosopher, I will not even try to figure this one out.

Webhead
05-14-2009, 09:06 PM
...The world is heading to nuclear war, so Ozymandius decides that in order to prevent the nations of the world from nuking each other, it's ok to kill (let's call it what it really is, MASS MURDER) 8 million or so people in New York under the guise of an alien attack. What happened in the end? No Nuclear War. What a great message that Alan Moore put out there...it's horse<censored>...

As Sascha eluded to in quoting the fantastic closing lines by Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan from the novel, Moore's message didn't seem (to me) to be support for the concept of "the ends justify the means" but rather to question it. Ozymandias certainly seemed to believe that saving billions was worth sacrificing millions, but even he has to question himself in the end and attempt to seek the approval of some "greater" authority (Manhattan) as if even he was never fully convinced of his own "righteousness".

This concept is also excellently captured in the first X-Men film.

Magneto: "Do none of you appreciate what I'm trying to do? Those people, down there...they control our fate and the fate of every other mutant! Well, soon our fate will be theirs."

Logan: "You're so full of [censored]! If you were really so righteous, it'd be you in that thing!"

After this, Magneto has no response. Afterall, what response is there to give? :)

Sascha
05-14-2009, 10:36 PM
You can go earlier in that film, even, with the Congressional hearings on mutant registration.

Senator Kelly (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001117/): You're evading the real question. Three words: Are mutants dangerous?
Doctor Jean Grey (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000463/): That's an unfair question, Senator Kelly. After all, the wrong person behind the wheel of a car can be dangerous.
Senator Kelly (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001117/): Well, we do license people to drive.
Doctor Jean Grey (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000463/): But not to live.

Panthro82
05-14-2009, 10:47 PM
Sascha and Web both good quotes there. I honestly think I am neutral to this question. I think situations will always come up that will make either one seem like the reasonable or wise decision at the time. I tend to lean more towards the means justifying the ends, but it isnt always the correct decision.