Do the Ends justify the Means?

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Avatar of Bryan Hellard
Bryan Hellard (@xyver)    3 years, 3 months ago

Yes or no?

I voted yes. The example that popped into my head was "Would you kill 100 to save 1000?"

The means is you have to kill 100 people, which is bad, but the end is 1000 people are saved. So it is a greater benefit. (no going on about "Maybe the 100 people were better then the 1000." No. They were equal.)

0 votes, posted 07.18.2011 at 7:00 am
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Avatar of Johannes Davidsson
Johannes Davidsson (@daokedao)3 years, 3 months ago ago

Would you sacrifice yourself to save the rest of the world.
> means <> ends <

The goal of this is to save world. It’s subjective.

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Avatar of Jordan Lejuwaan
Jordan Lejuwaan (@jordan)3 years, 3 months ago ago

Thanks for the backup, @Johannes.

Of course there is subjectivity in answering this question. I am saying that in order for us to agree on an answer, we have to come up with an objective hypothetical situation or else we would be arguing whether or not the outcome is positive enough rather than if ends justify means in general. Please re-read my previous posts if this is not clear enough.

You can’t cite Hitler as an example if you do not subjectively think his ends would have prevented more suffering than his actions required to reach those ends. You have to use a situation in which you clearly think that the outcome is far better than what would have been without the action.

So, once more, would you kill 1 person to save 1 billion. Yes or no? That is all there is to the question.

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Avatar of Jordan Lejuwaan
Jordan Lejuwaan (@jordan)3 years, 3 months ago ago

Also, I second @intellectualblasphemy‘s link: http://www.philosophyexperiments.com/ and clicking on ‘Should You Kill the Fatman?’

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Avatar of Syn.Ther.
Syn.Ther. (@luna)3 years, 3 months ago ago

I would not as it is not my right to do so.
Done the test and was consistent.

A good decision may have terrible consequences, ask any poker player ;)

Profitability is one value, the disconnection to morality would render any end meaningless
as well as its means.

I can not come to another conclusion then that there must be relevance.

I cited for the purpose of comparison, there is no difference in any of those examples it is the justification of the outcome. And for that there can not be any objectivity.

If this one to make this decision would be anybody and the one to die would be anybody, would they switch sides if they knew? What is right and what makes sense, what if it were you?
What would you benefit from this, and is that important?

Perspective and subjective.

After all all is relative.

Peace

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Avatar of James
James (@jameslarson13)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@jordan
the only reason it is a yes or no question is because you limited the answers to ‘yes’ and ‘no’
if there were more available answers (like there are in reality) then a hypothetical with parameters is not not the only way to determine the ‘correct’ answer.
Basically my point is, there is no room for hypothetical situations like killing 1 to save 1 billion in the real world.

If you would like me to answer your question, you will need to be more specific. How will killing this one person save one billion people?

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Avatar of ELI var namnet
ELI var namnet (@manimal)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@James

Yes and no are all the answers there are to it, all in-between answers are just less simple ways of saying either yes or no. By having the simplest answers, one gets the most truthful results. Like how Einstein talked about simple being truth or god.

You wouldn’t even be able to predict what the consequences of your actions may be, so the answer is always yes or no, because you can never know what consequences you cause.

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Avatar of James
James (@jameslarson13)3 years, 3 months ago ago

why wouldn’t you be able to predict the consequences of your actions? and how does that cause the answer to only be yes or no? and the answer ‘sometimes’ is neither yes nor no. yes implies always, no implies never.

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Avatar of Syn.Ther.
Syn.Ther. (@luna)3 years, 3 months ago ago

A Yes or No could only be established if there would be an understanding of the entire purpose of the universe if for that matter there is one.(only one)
The assumptions on this subject are merely that.
It is an existential question, judgment based on knowledge and believe systems relevant to mankind, thought up through the accumulation of intelligence and founded on current perception.

The advantage of numerical comparison is that it taps into our (human) logical abilities, it is however no certainty.

if the value of 1 would equal 1000000 as the question could imply the removal of 1 would lead to 1000000 equals 0.

The denial of equality is not as objectively as possible.
And besides that the mere need for a justification implies the involvement of negatives, or at least uncertainty.

Peace ;)

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Avatar of ELI var namnet
ELI var namnet (@manimal)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@James:

You can’t predict the future. You can guess, but it will never be true.
It’s a question of yes or no, sometimes isn’t a real answer, it’s the lack of one. Sometimes isn’t a proper answer to the question, since it does not answer the question and is no different from not answering at all.

The concept of sometimes is flawed and thinking about sometimes will only cloud your mind, NOW is the only time that truly exists and the only time that matters to your decision. Because you’re making the decision in the now, not sometimes.

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Syn.Ther. (@luna)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@ Emil, does that imply that although a prediction is correct it is still never true?

If there would only be yes would that not be a denial of free will, or perhaps the disqualification of individuality. As now being the only active contribution to our history, all is composed of nows. The relative relation of the parameters implies the passing of time between the means and the end, so sometimes is just as probable as Yes or No.

The validity of any decision can also vary over time due to variations in knowledge, therefor it is again just as plausible to answer yes or no, as the factors determining the outcome are relevant. The dismissal of any of those factors makes the justification mute.

At least that is how i would conclude it.

Peace

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Avatar of ELI var namnet
ELI var namnet (@manimal)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@Syn.Ther.

What I’m saying is the question is now and you answer from what you feel now. Sometimes means incongruency, which hurts your mind and limits you. Sometimes means I’m not sure, I don’t have an answer. Yes and no are the only answers.

A prediction is always a guess, you can never know what will happen, you can’t know about the future or the past. You can think but you can’t know. You can know everything about the present.

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Avatar of Syn.Ther.
Syn.Ther. (@luna)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@ Emil, the only thing you can know is past due to the speed of perception. I can understand why you would like to eliminate time this however is one of the dimensions we have to deal with.

A question may be now, any answer would be therefor in the future, if the answer would be the now the question must have been in the past.

We can know what happened as we can research results, and we can predict what may happen, what does happen is that time passes at a certain rate, there are predictions based on that which are true, any change in a parameter may influence the outcome however not make it less true.

The present is illusive, as any experience is the past. the actual now is unachievable if only due to the fact our perception takes time. What is the duration of now?

And for yes and no being the only answers could be true on certain questions, not on all as there is no absolute truth we know of yet.

Peace

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Avatar of Jordan Lejuwaan
Jordan Lejuwaan (@jordan)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@James — How would me telling you exactly how killing 1 person saves a billion change the question? For the sake of fun, the person that is being killed is about to set off a detonator that will wipe out most of Europe.

So you’re trying to say that there is also a ‘Maybe’ answer to this question? I’d like to hear an example of when ‘maybe’ would be your answer.

For both @Jason & @Syn. Ther, here is a hypothetical that you cannot argue against:

Would you do something that you personally find immoral in order to cause a positive effect which you consider to be drastically larger in effect than the negative action you had to commit to necessitate it? In other words, you personally feel that much more harm would have come from you not committing the immoral or negative action.

Would you do it?

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Avatar of Syn.Ther.
Syn.Ther. (@luna)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@ Jordan,

Actually all answers are maybe until there is a 100% certainty of the result and as there is individuality.

Therefor on your hypothetical it is the question of how selfish I would be, the measurement of moral. As the harm is not directed towards me i would have no personal gain from doing anything except for an invalid justification. If the harm would be directed at me the decision could be other but then there is no question of a negative action as it would be self defense. An essential selfish reaction and not connected to any other result then the will to be a little longer.

So in your example maybe, or may not be.

Peace

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Anonymous (@)3 years, 3 months ago ago

I answered yes too. In general if it can be avoided, I would avoid torture, murder and everything immoral you can think of. But if it is unavoidable, (and I think that this is unmistakably unavoidable, in other words there’s proof) then kill them and torture them, just don’t let me watch. i’ll probably still feel guilty about it after it happens, and I would commit suicide, but at least I would know that it was logically the right choice.

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Anonymous (@)3 years, 3 months ago ago

People seem to be oversimplifying this, there are all sorts of factors when I think about it. It can never be a “yes, always” or a “no, never” type of deal.

Would you kill 1 to save 1 if that one that was saved meant more to you? But perhaps more people loved the 1 you killed, then you’d be reducing the overall happiness.

Instead of kill 1 save a billion, how about kill 99 to save 100? Or even kill 1 to save 2? What about a child, would you kill a child to save 2 adults?

It’s very easy to look at it on paper, when you reduce humans to numbers, but if you had to look in the eyes of the one you kill. And maybe to you that 1 is just a number but I’m guessing to a lot of people that 1 is everything to them, they would probably argue against you.

Would you torture 99/100 innocents to get the info from that one guilty party? Or is it kind of like Dima said, the ends justify the means… as long as I don’t have to see it?

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Avatar of Alex Eastman
Alex Eastman (@alex)3 years, 3 months ago ago

It completely relies on the situation; what is sacrificed and what is gained needs to be known.
If we’re talking war, over resources and power, then no. Thousands dies in the war in the middle east,, all for finding one man and to control resources. Ends don’t justify the means al all there.

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Avatar of James
James (@jameslarson13)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@jordan
i thought about this last night a lot and i figured you would come up with something like that. here was my thought process: if killing this one person would save many because that one person is the direct cause of the many dying, than i agree that it would be completely justified to get a sniper up on a roof and take that SOB out. this person is about to commit mass genocide which can not be tolerated. he/she is in my opinion evil. therefore the means do not need to be justified. as syn. ther. says “the mere need for a justification implies the involvement of negatives, or at least uncertainty.” Killing this one in this scenario involves no negatives or uncertainty, in my view at least.

Here is another scenario. A boy steals to feed his family. In this case, i do not think that stealing the bread is justified by the survival of his family. He should get a job, and pay for the bread just like everyone else. If he can not, then obviously society is overloaded and can not support him and his family anyway.

I am not saying maybe, i am saying sometimes. those are two different answers in my opinion. maybe means to me, possibly yes, or possibly no. Sometimes means in some occasions, definitely yes, in some occasions, definitely no.

Also, i would like to repeat what i send in my first post, there is always more than one answer. we as humans need to do our best to figure out the most moral way to solve a problem.

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Avatar of Haakon
Haakon (@hawcon)3 years, 3 months ago ago

“Do the ends justify the means?”

By answering such a question there won’t be any uncertainty, there will always be the right answer for making moral choices. Without uncertainty in human ethics we can’t even call ourselves human, we would be a slave of our own ego. What makes us human is the ability to think rationally from situation to situation. Therefore I would say this is an unrealistic, non-gaining question to answer.

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Anonymous (@)3 years, 3 months ago ago

Your hypothetical case of ethical certainty ending human rational thought/enslaving the Self by the ego (ambiguous until you specify the difference- do you mean ‘ego the eTrue Hollywood Story’ or the Self Itself- ego ipse?) presupposes that ‘the ego’ is itself ultimately responsible for the actions of a self, and simultaneously that ‘the ego’ would have no choice but to act in a manner consistent with some all-encompassing normative Ethic. You are presupposing a will which is free to make choices which itself has no choice but to choose a particular choice in a hypothetical case where certainty is predicated of the choosing agent.

Did I miss something? Also, how does this account for choices which individuals make that are known beforehand, intuitively, to be the ‘wrong’ choice? Here there is certainty, in a way, and yet there is no certain rule that governs how the agent will act when met with a situation he or she deems to be fixed just-so in his/her understanding. Choice, it seems, is still as present as ever, if ever it is present at all.

It should be noted that I agree that the question of ‘the ends justifying the means’ is absurd. My view on means-ends reasoning is more or less Kantian in nature; I believe that one acts rightly if one’s means is an end unto itself. If the means have to be justified, they are as morally worthless as the end. Of course, my reading of Kant adheres less rigidly to his interpreters’ views on his writing. Following an individual’s categorical imperative, acting in a way consistent with a person’s nature, is what creates morally worthy action. The imperative was given in examples by Kant, though, which most people tend to take as holy writ. He stated previously that one’s ability to understand his or her path was not something which was tied to intellectual savvy, but something one has to grasp intuitively. This avoids the issue most people find in his moral philosophy with normative rights and wrongs, such as those concerned with lying and the like- problems which are in my opinion largely imagined.

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Avatar of Haakon
Haakon (@hawcon)3 years, 3 months ago ago

Haha, you’re really putting my English knowledge on the edge here :p

Anyway, I meant ‘ego’ as in the ‘self itself. As you may understand already, I’m not a man who believes in blatantly following your own principals whitout judging situations as they come. When you have the answer for “do the ends justify the means” you are already following a principal of morality that can have drastic measures.

I’m presupposing a will that makes the choices for you/me, the ego, instead of the ego making the choice according to the situation.

The part you wrote about making choices even though they intuitively know they’re wrong I didn’t understand completely. It all begins with a choice, and the choice is always present, but it’s up to YOU if you want to follow that choice as a principal of morality.

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Anonymous (@)3 years, 3 months ago ago

Ah, your moral rule is to examine each situation within the context it is given, according to whatever variables are perceptible. You were against the application of normative laws to particular circumstances, and you believe that answering the question of means being justified by ends creates those laws- strict formulaic prisons to confine thinking entities.

Your previous post begins to make a great deal more sense. ;D

The part you don’t understand was about people making choices even though they may already have the means-ends deal ‘figured out’ in their own minds. It was a subtle hinting at the inevitability of hypocrisy seeping into any such belief-based moral prison.

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Avatar of Sean D Stevens
Sean D Stevens (@thelaughingfool)3 years, 3 months ago ago

I actually do think that the ends justify the means, BUT ONLY if the means can result in the end. The most obvious application of this thought it torture. Is it justified to torture someone to get information to save a life? The problem is, contrary to what Jack Bauer might have you believe, torture is a very sloppy way to get information. A person in pain will say anything to make the pain stop. In fact, I can imagine several ways this can backfire. If you have a terrorist with a bomb planted in a city, what’s to stop the terrorist from leading you on a wild goose chase just to buy time? The fact that you tortured him for the information will lead you to believe what he said was accurate even if it’s an outright lie.
Now, think for a minute what saying “The ends DO NOT justify the means” actually implies. Is it okay to lead a terrorist to believe he’ talking to a fellow terrorist when in reality he’s talking to a cop. Not if the ends don’t justify the means. Lying to someone is a bad thing to do. That’s a little facetious on my part, but I think it still makes my point. People always use the extreme to explain a philosophical argument. What about the common and mundane. If the ends do not justify the means, then we have to count on all the people of the world to be nice. And that’s something you can’t count on.

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Avatar of Syn.Ther.
Syn.Ther. (@luna)3 years, 3 months ago ago

right is right, left is left and wrong is wrong ;)

no matter which way one spins it.

Peace

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Avatar of Dustin
Dustin (@dobbyfisher)3 years, 3 months ago ago

@Jordan

Finally, we disagree on something. My answer is certainly No.

This is a teleological vs deontological philosophical question. I had to write a paper on in and it is more involved than it seems at first.

Here’s a quick example of why many philosophers believe that the end does not justify the means… (Imagine a man walking down the street and a person bumps into him. He gets angry and stabs him in the chest. Clearly this is an over-reaction, right? Well what if the man he stabbed was Adolf Hitler? Does this new ‘end’ justify the ‘means’ to that end?)

A deontologist (Emmanuel Kant, for example) believes that the morality of an action primarily rest in motive and intent: ie we can only be held morally responsible for what we know in the moment of action… stabbing the man is still murder, the fact that the murdered man turned out to be Hitler is irrelevant with regards to ethics (it may be a nice coincidence but it does not justify the intent/means).

A teleologist/Utilitarian (John Stewart Mill, for example) believes that the best actions are those that lead to maximum happiness for the maximum amount of people. This limits moral judgment of an action until the outcome is known. A Utilitarian can justify the man who stabbed Hitler because it would be better in the end.

The ‘ends justification’ can justify endless atrocities. It only cares If the outcome is good for many… any type of action, regardless of how horrific, can be morally justified with this philosophy.

Here are some interesting questions to consider. All of them have means which can be potentially justified by various ends.

1. Is torture okay at Guantanamo assuming it prevents US loss of life.

2. Would you shoot a stranger to save 2 strangers lives? 3, 4, 10, 100, 6000000? Where is the line?

3. Is it morally acceptable to drop an atomic bomb on the families of our enemies, with the hope to prevent the greater loss of life which would result in direct combat with the enemy.

These are tricky questions… A deontologist (ends do not justify means) would say no to each question.

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