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Do the Ends Justify the Means?

 
 
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2003 10:01 pm
Is the end result justified by the way that a person gets there?
Don't dissect it, it's just an open-ended question.
Answer it however you want without overanalyzing the meaning.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 3,094 • Replies: 25
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Eccles
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Dec, 2003 10:48 pm
The answer would vary depending upon the situation and the value system of those involved.

Is there another way to achieve the end result?

Will the end result help a greater number of people than would be hurt in achieving it?

and, finally, interpreting "you" to signify the reader (and not a nation, group, etc), could somebody else achieve the same end without doing all the underhanded and cruel acts that the reader would be forced to do?


Do the ends ever justify the means? I would kill my own child to save the lives of ten others. There are a number of situations which, in my opinion, causing a degree of suffering to yourself or others is not only morally justifiable, but refusal to do is not only extreme cowardice but also makes you morally responsible to the victims.


Smile A lot of people would disagree with me and that is only how I would respond such a dilemma, not a formula to judge everybody else's actions. I am not trying to force my values onto other people or accuse anybody who believes differently of being amoral. Depending on your background, a lot of people would think differently (place more value on fate or claim the individual never has the right to choose for another person).

Anyway, thankyou for starting this interesting discussion. I have to stop procrastinating now, and return to studying suprasegmentals ( Crying or Very sad unfortunately I know as little about them as I know about the formal study of ethics) .

Regards,

Eccles
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xifar
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2003 11:50 am
It simply depends on whether the situation ends in success or not.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2003 12:02 pm
If the question is: Do the ends EVER justify the means -- I suspect the answer is "YES!"

If the question is: Do the ends ALWAYS justify the means -- I suspect the answer is "NO!"

And I think that holds whether we judge the "ends" to be "desireable" or "undesireable."


By the way -- it probably is more courteous to the contributors in this forum if one gets into the habit of simply asking a question -- or making a statement -- and not trying to direct the way a respondent should or should not respond.

Your comment:
Quote:
Don't dissect it, it's just an open-ended question.
Answer it however you want without overanalyzing the meaning
-- was not only uncalled for, it frankly was discourteous and more than just a bit illogical.
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Individual
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Dec, 2003 06:42 pm
Didn't mean to offend you, Frank. Just that that's the way the discussion started to head and I really wanted to experiment with a question that people answer in their own way instead of some strict question that forces people into a narrow path or having someone question the inquisitor and his inquiry.

I was directing it by forcing people not to look at the question (as so many threads have followed) but by looking at the answer.
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metaethics
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 05:18 pm
There would be no doubt that the ends CAN justify the means so long as they don't end up producing unwanted results and consequences.

There would be little doubt when the ends DO justify the means even if the ends produced double effect, as long as those different results are inexplicably inseparable by human effort.

There would be moral concerns if the ends MUST justify the means regardless of intentions and purposes of those who executed particular plans and acts.

Effects never exceed causes (< st. thomas acquinas) - and we need to justify the causes first so that we can decide whether we tolerate the ends, even if they had some undesirable effects.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 05:35 pm
To me this is a no-brainer. Depends on the ends and depends on the means.

This question is the equivalent of:

"Is the item worth the price?"

WHAT ITEM?

WHAT PRICE?

They are not static.

;-)
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metaethics
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 05:44 pm
I was one of those MBAs at NYU when we discussed this type of open-ended questions and the professor always answered "It depends."

... And it took so much of their brain, they ended up getting better jobs and I decided to become a philosopher instead.

Why don't we discuss it if we have to deal with it everyday? I find it fun when it's not static.
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Individual
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 06:38 pm
This question was meant to imply something like:
If a scientist tests an antibiotic on five people, but it ends up killing each one before being perfected. Then it goes on to save millions of lives.
Do the ends justify the means?
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metaethics
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 07:14 pm
Yes, if the principle of something like "trying to save one's life is moral" prompts the scientist's cause. It "depends" on the scientist's moral conviction and intention to serve the common good.

It's not that the scientist can get away with his/her professional misconduct by actually killing someone, but the scientist still deserves people's moral support, which justifies the means here in concern.

Even if a course of action is expected to have two different results, one lawful or binding but the other illegitimate or unacceptable, it may be allowed to take such an action as long as the intention is clear to produce a lawful result.

Example: a nationwide vaccination of the population to prevent or counter an epidemic, even if it is foreseeable that it might also do a fatal harm to the particular.
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K VEE SHANKER
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2003 05:16 am
Individual wrote:
This question was meant to imply something like:
If a scientist tests an antibiotic on five people, but it ends up killing each one before being perfected. Then it goes on to save millions of lives.
Do the ends justify the means?


Question I think that one should be careful about means employed also.It would probably be acceptable if the means don't cause much harm like killing and be done on volunteers.I won't accept if the test you're quoting is done without the knowledge of the victims.Further, it's a fact that we're not in control of the damage.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Dec, 2003 06:51 am
Individual wrote:
This question was meant to imply something like:
If a scientist tests an antibiotic on five people, but it ends up killing each one before being perfected. Then it goes on to save millions of lives.
Do the ends justify the means?


Quite a different question from the first one, actually.

But let's take this question.

Even if MY answer were: Yes, that particular end would justify that particular means to the end...

...my guess would be that the answer of the five individuals and their family and loved ones might be appreciably different.

And if I could introduce variables like: "Could the scientists get volunteers for what was acknowledged to be a very dangerous testing?"...my response would be affected (effected).

In fact, your proposition does not suggest if the five were volunteers entering the testing with the shades up, so to speak -- or were people duped into a test they did not know was dangerous.

The responses might be different considering answers to those variables.

There have been times where people have died in testing -- in fact where most have died (heart transplants) -- and great future good was derived. They knew the dangers before the surgeries.

To me, the sacrifice made by the original VOLUNTEERS was certainly a means that justified the ends.

Some drugs were administered in tests back in the 1950's without the informed consent (indeed, without the consent, informed or not) of the testees.

Even if good were derived from that kind of underhanded undertaking -- and even if it could be shown that the testing was needed, but could not be obtained by volunteers, I would probably vote that kind of means not justifying that kind of end.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2003 12:21 pm
Why don't you put some real meaning to your question by applying it to the war in Iraq?

I'd be most interested in the answers from the same respondents but I would like some good plausible rationale to back up your answer.
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Eccles
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Dec, 2003 06:20 am
There's a lot of other situations which would be relevant to this discussion. Gene therapy, for example.

I find the question more interesting from the standpoint of medical ethics. The dangers and rewards are more uncertain, and you have no guarantees that the research would prove fruitful. Is it morally acceptable to perform dangerous experiments on an individual who does not (or even does) have a terminal illness? Who has the right to decide? The individual or the government?

I would happily sentence both Bush and Suddam Hussein to death (as well as two of their closest cronies) if it meant that this bloody war had never began.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Dec, 2003 08:25 am
The only situation in which this question is debatable is one in which the means are perceived as wrong and the ends desirable.

Strictly speaking, I think the answer to the question (as posed above) is no, because the end result cannot be guarenteed. For example, while we may kill Saddam, we can't know at the time that the result will be the saving of a million lives.

On the other hand, killing Saddam might have been a good idea regardless of the consequences.

And, of course, there are no moral absolutes. But it seems patently wrong to deliberably do wrong, whatever the motive or hoped-for consequences.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Dec, 2003 12:35 pm
mark
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Centroles
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jan, 2004 02:51 am
Yes. Happy?
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jan, 2004 11:21 am
Greyfan wrote:
And, of course, there are no moral absolutes.

Why not?
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metaethics
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Jan, 2004 07:35 pm
Try not to find answers in absolutes
Greyfan wrote:
And, of course, there are no moral absolutes.


Try not to find answers in the absolutes; otherwise you'd get lost.

Morality may be the ultimate knowledge that none of us could understand or obtain by our reason alone, and you may call it the absolute. And you could deny the existence of it just because you simply don't know it, but what would people say about you if you say it doesn't exist because you don't know it - without proof of non-existence?

There would be no end to your search of knowledge unless you believe in its existence. That's not my line, that's part of the definition of science, and the sciences provide the means to achieve it.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 Jan, 2004 04:56 pm
But I don't believe in its existence.

Most of us adopt values from the cultures to which we have been exposed. What makes something moral is widespread agreement; as times change, so does morality. But it remains a matter of opinion, whether belief is widespread or not, because no moral principle can be tested, scientifically or otherwise. Its just what we decide it is.

The only way around this is to invoke God's will, but even then we have an arbitrary standard founded on nothing more than God's opinion. Or, more accurately, the opinion of the people who claim God has spoken to them.

Of course, I could be wrong. I'd love to see a compelling argument that I am, because the world would sure become a lot simpler.
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