Do the ends justify the means?

Posted by: PetersSmith

"Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means." -Machiavelli - Chapter 18 of the Prince

  • Yes, by any means necessary; if a goal is morally important enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable. Let a prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, and the means will always be judged honorable and praised by everyone, for the vulgar is always taken by appearances and the issue of the event; and the world consists only of the vulgar, and the few who are not vulgar are isolated when the many have a rallying point in the prince.

  • No, there is a limit to how far one can go in order to achieve certain ends. If one uses "bad" means to accomplish a "good" and even desirable result, the good result does not make the bad means one used justifiable. It's not enough just to be trying to do just things; you have to also do them in a just manner. An immoral means, invalidates the end. Sometimes people regret their actions for getting what they wanted. Then realize what they wanted wasn't worth it after all. For example, jus ad bello and jus i

29% 6 votes
71% 15 votes
  • Yes. Key being that it is morally important enough. I do believe in sacrifice for a greater good ... so I have to believe that the end does sometimes justify the means. Especially when you're trying to attain something that would normally be impossible by conventional means. Sometimes you just need that extra push to catch a small window for success.

  • You have to crack a few eggs to make an omlette

  • I agree with this

    Posted by: Kylar
  • Walter White

  • Ends can not justify means because they are completely separate from each other. Killing a serial killer may stop the killings but think if you spent more effort on rehabilitation and the serial killer later invented something worth while. A bad means can never reach a great end; there will always be some price.

    Posted by: Letrus
  • The ends cannot be

  • Let's say you have a child who needs a heart - you could wait in line for one and have it die sooner rather than later. Or you could get it one via threat, violence, and/or coercion. If you succeed you have saved your child's life - however you will not get to enjoy it as you will have to face consequences. Further your child could be shot, hit by a car, or simply reject the organ at any time. So your actions are effectively pointless. And most times that's what it boils down to - self-centered action rarely qualifies for further consideration of merit.

    Posted by: Espera
Leave a comment...
(Maximum 900 words)
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T11:11:58.3272522-05:00
No got cut off: No, there is a limit to how far one can go in order to achieve certain ends. If one uses "bad" means to accomplish a "good" and even desirable result, the good result does not make the bad means one used justifiable. It's not enough just to be trying to do just things; you have to also do them in a just manner. An immoral means, invalidates the end. Sometimes people regret their actions for getting what they wanted. Then realize what they wanted wasn't worth it after all. For example, jus ad bello and jus in bello are not mutually exclusive.
Heraclitus says2015-04-17T11:13:06.2739949-05:00
Sometimes
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T11:49:02.6466839-05:00
The options descriptions are 'too good'(a little long), but for the complexity of the issue, I would have to say they are at a justifiable length.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T13:19:56.8686286-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: The descriptions for my face-off answers are extras, and you should not be voting based on them. They are supposed to get you in the right set of thinking, and also act as "reasons" for users that don't add their own. If you don't want to get on my bad side, then stop judging my polls.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:01:19.7848473-05:00
"If you don't want to get on my bad side, then stop judging my polls." There are many people I am on the bad side of, adding one more to the list isn't going to do much.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:01:58.0878297-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: That's too bad.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:07:22.0050503-05:00
Also, why on earth would you care if I judge your polls. I am a person who has made polls about which is cuter a caecilian or a human. My opinion on a poll really doesn't mean much considering how low quality some of my polls are.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:07:59.8187231-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: Then don't judge.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:08:50.1665986-05:00
Free will.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:10:24.7867352-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: Fine, then why would you want to criticize a harmless poll that isn't overly biased? Can't you just leave it be and appreciate the effort I put into it?
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:11:51.6016520-05:00
I do appreciate it. "but for the complexity of the issue, I would have to say they are at a justifiable length." Based on the complexity of the issue, these lengths are fairly helpful.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:13:28.0052117-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: Then don't complain.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:14:41.3082020-05:00
It is a kind of difficult poll to read, but it is still a good poll. Just because I criticize one part of it doesn't mean I think it is a bad poll.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:15:23.5521896-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: Yes or no, it doesn't have to be easy to read.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:17:00.2859293-05:00
Yes or no to what? I am now confused.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:17:21.3081988-05:00
Oh question. I am dumb, woops.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:17:41.1103442-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: The first step is acceptance.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:17:47.3346245-05:00
Answer, no it doesn't 'have' to be easy to read.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:20:37.3164164-05:00
" The first step is acceptance." PetersSmith, everyone is dumb in something. It is merely human.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:21:23.0316764-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: Yes, but there's an aspect about being self-conscious about yourself.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:23:12.3859260-05:00
I am very aware that there are subjects I am dumb in. Most of which I don't care to get better in. I am dumb in social skills, verbal/speaking skills, and sports related topics.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:23:42.2589989-05:00
Well I do care about the verbal and speaking skills, I just have had no luck in improving them.
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:24:10.6816523-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: Okay.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:24:31.6476491-05:00
Quick question, If I make a poll that is titled, "Does the maker of this poll have a distorted sense of cute?" then the description would say "The maker of this poll finds cuttlefish, caecilians, and sea pigs cute" would that be a violation of the terms of agreement?
PetersSmith says2015-04-17T15:25:39.8147690-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: If it's about you, then I don't think so. Because call-out polls have to be done with the person's permission.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T15:26:57.8168381-05:00
Thanks for the information.
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T17:40:15.2058392-05:00
If you've ever made a mistake ever ... Ever ... You'd be a prime example of ends justifying the means. Your means was not flawless. It can't be. You'd basically be saying that your mistakes in life have already damned whatever it is you ever accomplish in life, or ever will accomplish.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:42:10.7060180-05:00
FreedomBeforeEquality, the saying deals more with extremes than minor mistakes.
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T17:46:34.0173364-05:00
People can do some pretty extreme stuff. No redemption possible there? This is interesting actually. Would those same people argue that there are cardinal sins of a sort? A certain morality to the universe that you just cannot overcome? Because if morality was as flexible as what goes on in the human mind and in society ... The end could still justify the means in the right time and place. No fixed set of rules to abide by to say ''you're going too far''.
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T17:48:05.7083909-05:00
And so ... Doing something wrong currently ... Long enough ... It could eventually be justified when peoples thought changes on the matter. The mob is fickle.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:50:27.9069352-05:00
FBE, is it ok if I call you that? Would you be willing to kill a large amount of people to prevent overpopulation?
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:50:49.2034814-05:00
Does the end of no overpopulation justify the means of genocide?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T17:55:59.5108401-05:00
If it came to a point where we realized that overpopulation would have ended us. Maybe we have a very close call after all our efforts. We can't go forward believing we might have staved off our total destruction? Maybe like a world ending scenario or something.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:56:47.4403574-05:00
So would you commit genocide to stop overpopulation?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T17:57:38.7081843-05:00
Or should we all just die ... To keep things fair you know. Titanic! What would the rafts have looked like if some didn't sacrifice for the women and children? All go down with the ship?
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:58:10.0523882-05:00
Yes or no.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:58:37.2466457-05:00
Would you commit genocide to stop overpopulation.
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T17:58:52.9087445-05:00
That's actually a perfect example ... Because a specific demographic was given preference over the rest. Were they wrong to do that?
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T17:59:41.8541427-05:00
You still didn't answer the question I gave directly.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:01:00.2490956-05:00
Yes or no. One word, would you commit genocide to prevent overpopulation.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:02:13.8796796-05:00
If you answer my question, I will respond to yours.
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T18:03:29.5070252-05:00
If I had reason to believe it would save us, sure.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:05:57.3021723-05:00
Which do you want me to do first, answer your question or tell you why overpopulation doesn't justify genocide?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T18:07:25.2652913-05:00
I would say I'd try not to be selective in the matter ... But there is assuredly an optimal set of people for that success, surviving. If we did it indiscriminately we'd be putting ourselves closer to a near miss with success. It depends on what the risk is and what the window for success looks like. How indiscriminate can we afford to be?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T18:09:01.5462978-05:00
I think first you'd have to design an instance ... Overpopulation is pretty vague. What is our projected time before SHTF.
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T18:10:19.1038870-05:00
Better yet ... Just start with the most severe. Why would it not be ok to commit genocide to save more lives than you're killing?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T18:10:31.5101096-05:00
Or any lives at all?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T18:10:56.7192248-05:00
Everyone's gonna die tomorrow if no one dies today.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:18:18.1143725-05:00
"Better yet ... Just start with the most severe. Why would it not be ok to commit genocide to save more lives than you're killing?" Because often the means isn't the best way to solve the problem. Something like overpopulation is often prevent just from advancements in agriculture, currently the earth can only sustain 10 billion people, but with vertical farming or algae bio-reactors you can pass the limit by a lot. There has been many situations where people have supported mass killing to prevent populations from getting too large, all of these efforts were in false logic. We technically already surpassed an old overpopulation of earth with nitrogen fertilizers. People then were thinking mass killings were necessary, people now are thinking mass killing will be necessary to prevent overpopulation, people in the future will think the same thing, it will always be unnecessary. Now lets say you can't just grow your way out of over population, then what? I will explain in the next comment.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:23:25.9724684-05:00
Lets say you have two people stuck on a island, they only have enough food growing to keep one alive. In order to prevent both of them from starving, one kills the other. The next day a ship comes by to pick them up? Now what would have happened, if one chose to go without food until they starved, while a horrible way to die, if the situation were to change for the better, it would have been worth it. The point is that you often don't know what the future is, what seems to be necessary may not be. Now I like to say that I do believe there are situations where the means are justified, but these scenarios are specific.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:23:53.8962788-05:00
If you have a person about to kill several, it would be wise to kill him to stop the murders.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:25:50.3691719-05:00
Often you have to weigh the pros and cons of waiting for the ship, and what you are giving up by committing the means
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:31:19.4604123-05:00
The bottom line with this subject is that you have to be careful, there has been many horrendous acts that were considered to be justified by the end goal, but in the end unnecessary.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:34:03.8289491-05:00
So I have a question for you FBE, will you be careful of the theory that the end justify the means?
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-17T18:37:17.5148243-05:00
FBE, do you understand what I am saying?
FreedomBeforeEquality says2015-04-17T21:37:44.9234009-05:00
Oh yeah I'm not saying its ok to just jump straight to it every time. But there are instances where its ok. I mean, the same could be said in reverse of your population ones. We make all these farming efforts and sacrifice a ton of man hours and peoples lives (devoted to this vertical farming research), and it turns out you misjudged the capabilities of this tech you devoted so much time to ... And we end up in a crisis anyways. Killings would have had a higher chance of success. Then who is left feeling guilty at the end of the day? The smart choice isn't always the one that follows what feels right. These feelings we've created about the value of one life and such, societal values, they're just a tool so we get along here and now. They aren't universally applicable like morality based on nature is.

Freebase Icon   Portions of this page are reproduced from or are modifications based on work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.