Free Essay

Does the End Justify the Means?

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By bilbo
Words 1264
Pages 6
Does the End Justify the Means?

Should the doctrine of “the end justifies the means” be accepted? The "the end justifies the means" doctrine is acceptable, but only under certain situations. To understand why this position is being taken, you have to understand the origin of "the end justifies the means." The phrase came from Niccolo Machiavelli's book The Prince. Machiavelli's phrase is interpreted by many to mean that the end result of an action was justified by the actions one took to get there, regardless of the methods used (End justifies the means, n.d.). The phrase suggests that it does not matter whether these methods are legal or illegal, moral or immoral, kind or cruel, or truth or lie. The phrase has to be put into context in order to understand how it can be applied in our modern times. The Prince’s original intended audience was rulers (i.e., government), and was meant to advise and instruct them (Nederman, 2009). The Prince was never meant for the common people. Since "the end justifies the means" was originally meant for the government, then its doctrine can only be acceptable when it is used by the government under certain situations, such as to establish peace during a time of war.
Should “the end justifies the means” be unconditional? Can it be situational?
Over the years, people have abused "the end justifies the means." The phrase has been used to excuse any wrongs made to attain a goal. For example, a banker will reason that it is all right to steal millions of dollars because she is giving half of it to charities. A study was done in Journal of Personality & Social Psychology that showed that ordinary people use the "the end justifies the means" reasoning to make ethical and moral judgments (Cote, Piff, & Willer, 2013). The study showed that the more higher up in income people are the more likely they are to use "the end justifies the means" in their moral and ethical reasoning. “The end justifies the means” philosophy is too dangerous to be used by the ordinary person since it commonly leads to abuse.
Machiavelli intended for the “end-means” philosophy to be situational and not unconditional since he recommends in The Prince that evil and hatred should be avoided as much as possible, but there are some situations that require harsh means (Riemer, Simon, & Romance, 2013, p. 21). Machiavelli meant for the “end-means” philosophy to be used by governments for the common good of its citizens. Here are three examples of the government using harsh means (i.e. "the end justifies the means") for the common good of its citizens. The first example is U.S. government sanctioned assassinations, such as with Osama bin Laden. The government assassinating Osama bin Laden was justified in that it saves future lives by serving as a warning to others that they could end up like Osama bin Laden if they try any terrorist actions against the U.S. The second example where the “end-means” philosophy was used for the common good was to establish peace during a time of war, such as the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As harsh as the atomic bombs were, they were necessary to save lives by ending World War II and establishing peace. In fact, "the end justifies the means" reasoning was used throughout World War II. An example of it can be seen in Breaking the German will to resist, 1944-1945, which was an article published in Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television. The article assesses the role of psychological warfare in ending WWII, which involved deceiving friends and the public. The article concluded that the end (ending World War II) was worth the means (lies and deceit) used to get there (Taylor & Weekes, 1998). The third example of the government using "the end justifies the means" for the common good is capital punishment. Capital punishment is necessary in order to achieve two important goals: (1) to protect citizens from harm. A convicted murderer cannot kill once they are put to death, and (2) it serves as a warning to others that if they murder, then they will also be put to death. The end results (a safer society) justify the harsh means (putting someone to death) used to get them.
What consequences may arise from following, or not following, this political axiom?
There are consequences for a government following, and not following, the philosophy of "the end justifies the means." Each will be talked about respectively. A consequence of a government following this philosophy could involve reduced terrorist action. For example, the killing of Osama bin Laden could make terrorists hesitant to commit attacks against the U.S. Another consequence of a government following the "end-means" philosophy is a loss of privacy. Law Technology did an analysis that discussed the FBI using a device that can scan all the e-mail of an internet service provider (Hunter, 2007). The FBI’s goal is to fight terrorism by finding information in e-mails that could lead to terrorist activity. The end result of preventing terrorist activity is worth the loss of privacy by the FBI going through people’s e-mails.
The consequences of a government not following the "the end justifies the means" philosophy can mostly be negative. For example, what if the atomic bombs had never been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the bombs were considered too dangerous? The consequence of this decision could have resulted in millions of American lives being lost by prolonging the war. Or what if Osama bin Laden had not been assassinated? Terrorist groups might construe this as a sign of weakness and plot more terrorist actions against the U.S.
Conclusion
"The end justifies the means" is not a moral or ethical code. It is a way for governments to establish peace and security for its citizens. The ideology is too extreme to be used by ordinary citizens, and should only be used by governments under certain situations, such as to establish peace during a time of war. However, there are consequences for using the philosophy, some good, such as ending wars, and some bad, such as provoking terrorist attacks. "The end justifies the means" must be used with wisdom and prudence with the common good in mind.
References
Cote, S., Piff, P. K., & Willer, R. (2013). For Whom Do the Ends Justify the Means? Social Class and Utilitarian Moral Judgment. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 104(3), 490-503. doi:10.1037/a0030931
End justifies the means (n.d.). The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/end justifies the means, the
Hunter, G. E. (2007). The use of technology to invade personal privacy in the interest of collective security: Does the end justify the means? Law Technology, 40(1), 1-20. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/219301480?accountid=38569
Nederman, Cary (2009). Niccolò Machiavelli. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/machiavelli/#2
Riemer, Neal, Simon, Douglas W., & Romance, Joseph (2013). The Challenge of Politics: An Introduction to Political Science (4th Ed.). Washington, D.C.: SAGE Publications
Taylor, P. M., & Weekes, N. C. F. (1998). Breaking the german will to resist, 1944-1945: Allied efforts to end world war II by non-military means. Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, 18(1), 5-48. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/208177252?accountid=38569

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Hedonistic Utilitarianism

...Introduction Can a rotten egg make a good Omelet? The end/means dilemma is an old and popular scenario. The answer to this question depends on what the type of goals or ends are and what means are being used to achieve them. Moreover, Gandhi, pioneer and a theorist of satyagraha said, “I feel that our progress towards the goal will be in exact proportion to the purity of our means”. Indeed, according to the Gandhian philosophy, the means and ends are like the two sides of the same coin. They are inseparable from each other. That is why, for example, Gandhi struggled whole life against British and never adopted the wrong means. I. Do ends ethically justify their means? Most people use the expression "the ends justify the means" as an excuse...

Words: 1365 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

Catholics in the Use of Condoms

...In moral theology, an act is the knowing choice of a human person. Each knowing choice is an act, and each act is subject to the eternal moral law. Some acts are moral, and other acts are immoral. An immoral act is a sinful act. Sin is a knowingly chosen immoral act. The morality of any act is based on three fonts (or sources): (1) The intention or purpose for which the act is done, (2) the inherent moral meaning of the act as determined by its moral object, (3) the circumstances of the act, especially the consequences. To be moral, each and every act must have three good fonts of morality. The intention must be good, the moral object must be good, and the good consequences must outweigh any bad consequences. If any one font is bad, the act is immoral. If an act is immoral due to a bad intention, the same type of act may be moral with a good intention. If an act is immoral due to the circumstances, the same type of act may be moral in different circumstances. But when an act has an evil moral object, the act is inherently immoral, in other words, the act is evil, in and of itself, apart from intention and circumstances. Every intrinsically evil act has an inherent moral meaning (the moral species) which is contrary to the moral law of God. Intrinsically evil acts are never justified by intention or circumstances because the moral species (the type of act in terms of morality) is inherently unjust. Pope John Paul II: "But the negative moral precepts, those......

Words: 2755 - Pages: 12

Premium Essay

Ethics

...ethics has been examined within theories of ethics. Some of the theories include the utilitarian approach, the moral rights approach and the justice approach. Each and every approach has its own weaknesses and strengths. The utilitarian approach Some ethicists emphasize that the ethical action is the one that provides the best good, does the least harm or to put it another way, produces the greatest balance of good over harm. The ethical corporate action is the one that produces the greatest good and does the least harm for all who are affected that is the customers, employees, shareholders, the community, and the environment. Ethical warfare balances the good achieved in ending terrorism with the harm done to all parties through death, injuries, and destruction. The utilitarian approach deals with consequences, it tries both to increase the good done and to reduce the harm done. Strengths Secular. Utilitarianism does not rely on specific beliefs about God. In the modern, multicultural society with a range of religious beliefs and a growing number of atheists, a secular approach is most useful. The utilitarianism approach is universal, which means it is acceptable to all the different types of cultures that are available globally. In every religion the utilitarianism approach is useful as it only considers the practises that do not harm the society but those that are acceptable to the society. The belief about what is right or wrong is the one that the society......

Words: 1568 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Deontological and Teleological Approaches to Ethical Decision Making’

...Teleology is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose, or goal. For example, a teleological explanation is where is does not focus on the action but it only focuses on the outcome or consequences. Ethical decision making helps people make difficult choices when faced with an ethical dilemma, a situation in which there is no clear right or wrong answer, Refers to the process of evaluating and choosing among alternatives in a manner consistent with ethical principles. In making ethical decisions, it is necessary to perceive and eliminate unethical options and select the best ethical. If an ethical approach if deontological, it means the morality of an action is intrinsic, which means that the act is completely wrong or completely right. Also the right or wrong of the act cannot change, it stays the same. For example - murder is wrong because it is wrong, it will always be wrong. Therefore this is a Deontological approach towards murder. On the other hand, if an ethical approach is Teleological, it means that it only focuses on the outcome that is caused by the action, also it is the result of an action that decides whether an action in itself is right or wrong, for instance - abortion may not be wrong as it could result in the mother having a baby that has a proper education and a good life in the future. Deontological ethics tend to be more absolute than teleological ethics, this means that the act is morally wrong, deontological believers would......

Words: 609 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Drunk Driving

...Ethics, so that’s what I have chosen to do for drunk driving as my last journal entry. Immanuel Kant believed acts were justified when they came from moral obligations. As humans we must treat everyone with respect, never treat anyone as a means to an end, and treat each person as an autonomous person. If someone chooses to drunk drive, it does not matter how old they are, they are not treating themselves or the other drives or pedestrians with respect. And if they lie to the passengers and say that they are sober, it is even worse. Therefore, under Kantianism, it cannot be considered to be a universal law. Consequentialism holds that the consequences of one's actions are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that action, in other words, “the ends justify the means.” The best possibility of an end when a person chooses to drunken drive is that they arrive at their destination. There are other means of transportation that could have allowed them to get their safety, and in the mean time they are risking their lives and the lives of almost everyone around them when they are in the driver’s seat. In effect, the ends do not justify the means because the ends are just arriving at a different location and the means is the potential death of a human being. Utilitarianism is an ethical tradition that directed us to decide based on overall consequences of our acts. The...

Words: 453 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Describe the Main Principles of the Two Normative Ethical Theories of Deontology and Utilitarianism. Compare and Contrast the Two Theories, Bringing Out Any Problems or Limitations You See in Each.

...principles of the two normative ethical theories of deontology and utilitarianism. Compare and contrast the two theories, bringing out any problems or limitations you see in each. Bioethics Essay • Intro: Define ethics and define and introduce the two theories. (philosophical theories…) • Utilitarianism- example • Deontology- example- compare • comparing- evaluating and critically analyzing*- similarities and differences. • Limitations and positives* • Conclusion- summary of essay and own opinion, remember to justify your own views with reasons – don’t just state your opinions without arguing for them in terms of moral values. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/#DeoTheKan http://www.slideshare.net/kljonz/individual-ethics-essay-1 There are two major ethics theories that attempt to specify and justify moral rules and principles; these are utilitarianism and deontological ethics. Utilitarianism (also known as consequentialism) is a moral theory developed and refined in the modern world in the writings of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).(1) Deontology is a ??? theory developed from the eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The theory utilitarianism is the morality of an act that is judged by it’s utility. The greatest utility that is has for the most people; the greatest usefulness an act......

Words: 1646 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Similarties & Differences in Virtue

...Similarities and Differences in Virtue Theory, Utilitarianism, and Deontological Ethics This document will discuss the similarities and differences between virtue theory, utilitarianism, and deontological ethics. A persons ethical and social responsibility is very important to their personal and business success. Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify and classify what is ethical and moral. I will also provide a personal example of one of the ethical behavior. The first question you must ask yourself is what are the meaning of Virtue Theory, utilitarianism, and Deontological. According to the Webster Dictionary; Virtue- normally good behavior or character, a good moral quality, or the good result that comes from somerthing. Now what does that mean in laymens term, After reviewing the technical and professional expernatiation When talking about ethics it is hard to distinguish between ethics and morality. It is also hard to distinguish exactly what realm of ethics contributes to my everyday decisions. Ethics can be defined as “well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues [and] ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards” (Andre, Shanks, & Velasquez, 2010, para. 8-9). According to Psychology Today (2013) morality is, “ethics, evil, greed, sin, and conscience” (para. 1). “Morals can vary from person to......

Words: 1138 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Dentology

...Test –Business Ethics for Healthcare Institutions, 1.Describe the Tripartite Ethics Theory by answering the questions below : * What is the primary decision criterio for each of the following theories ? a.Utilitarianism – The primary decision criterion for utilitarianism is if a decision or act would lead to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. An example would be a patient is on the waiting list for an organ and as a result decides to make a sizeable donation to the hospital..Because of this donation the hospital will benefit tremendously and as a result the patient’s status on the waiting list changes. One large problem with Utilitarianism is that it justifies things that are clearly immoral if such act produces a maximization of consequences. Utilitarianism can be used to justify punishment or enslaving a small group of people if such acts produce a maximization of consequences .But such an act is clearly immoral regardless of how fruitful they might be for the greatest number. c.Virtue Ethics.- Virtue ethics is a person rather than action based: it looks at the virtue or moral character of the person carrying out an action, rather than at ethical duties and rules, or the consequences of particular actions. Based upon virtual ethics a person’s character would come into play when deciding on consequences for any inappropriate actions. The decision criterion here would be focused on the person’s character make-up (e.g. stealing from the company......

Words: 1797 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

Kant’s View

...had his own set of ethical and morality theories that many people still follow today. Which brings us to this case and point, is it ever morally permissible to do a morally wrong action in order for the greater good? I will be discussing Kant’s and my moral views on this particular issue. Immanuel Kant was known for his critique of judgment. Kant said that “human beings have “an intrinsic worth” or dignity” that make the valuable “above all price” Rachel’s (page136). Kant believed that “all of our duties can be derived from one ultimate principle, which he called the Categorical Imperative” Rachel’s (Page137). Categorical Imperative is a moral theory that “ones behavior should accord with universalizable maxims which respect persons as end in themselves; the obligation to do ones duty for its own sake” Collins (Page252) .Is the doctrine that each person ought to pursue his or her own self-interest exclusively” this theory express the condition of the rationality of conduct rather than that of its...

Words: 1029 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Environmental Ethics

...Holmes   Nicholas Holmes 912416549 Environmental Ethics Rationally Persuasive Paper 1 12/10/2013   The Inaction that repetitively plagues the Environmental Movement can be brought to an end by doing something new.  ​​Insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. --Albert Einstein.   ​ Since there is doubt to the severity of or even the existence of the environmental crisis, this paper will operate under the presupposition that the environment is indeed in dire straits, and that the ultimate solution should produce a utopian society where man and environment are judged equally.  This paper is written from the contentious perspective.  Through this perspective it is implicit; by the environment's current state, coupled with the assumption of human responsibility, and the obligation human morality, the notion that something must be done by humans in regards of addressing the environment's plight. That something; must be different from what is currently, and has historically been done.  The justification for this statement comes from Albert Einstein’s Epitaph.  We need to strike out.  Enacting positive drastic changes in the state in the environment will require drastic changes in our collective ethos.  It is the task of the environmental movement to; not only figure out what these changes are, and which ones will work best, but to also integrate the changes in to the mainstream.  Obviously there must be division of labor within the......

Words: 2055 - Pages: 9

Free Essay

Examine Four of Fletchers Six Principles

...Situation ethics is an ethical theory devised by philosopher Joseph Fletcher. In situation ethics moral principles can be overlooked if love is better served. It is teological, which is consequential but rather than the greatest good it is looking for the greatest love. Joseph Fletcher outlined his theory of situation ethics in ten principles which he separated into the four working presumptions and the six fundamental principles otherwise known as propositions. In this essay I will be examining four of Joseph Fletchers six fundamental principles. The first fundamental principle is ‘only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love: nothing else at all’. Only love is good in itself. Actions are not intrinsically good or evil as they are good or evil depending upon whether they promote the most loving result. Love is intrinsically valuable it has inherit worth. Nothing else has intrinsic value but it gains or acquires its value because it happens to help people making it good or hurt people making it bad. Actions are not intrinsically good or evil depending upon whether they produce the most loving result. They are extrinsically good depending on their circumstances and consequences. Joseph Fletcher said that actions are extrinsically good depending upon the circumstances. According to Joseph Fletchers first principle actions such as lying can be justified if the action itself is extrinsically good. Natural law states that actions such as lying are always wrong regardless...

Words: 682 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

It590 Project 6

...IT590 Assignment Unit 6: Final Project The evaluation ethics Student Kaplan University Abstract Compile research which has completed during this course. Reflect upon how what you have learned will change the way in which you conduct yourself in your career. Determine what laws will affect you? Determine what ethical theories will dictate the way in which you make decisions? Think about a situation in which you may be conducting business with people in other cultures. How might your beliefs differ from theirs? Use examples and/or case studies to demonstrate your position. IT590 Assignment Unit 6: Final Project The evaluation ethics Why did utilitarianism become one of the most popular ethical theories? Several factors contributed to its popularity. Most important was the fact that, it is a relatively simple ethical system to apply. Actions are moral merely by you have to calculate the good consequences and bad consequences that will result from a particular action and weighting on a scale. If the good outweighs the bad, then the action is moral. The next factor is that most people are already schooled in using a form of utilitarianism in their everyday decision making. A lot of the decisions that are non-moral decisions are based upon consequences. On the line to get in for the gas pump, we try to find the quickest line so we can get be on our way faster. We mostly analyze our financial decisions buy with (writing checks, store card, credit card, etc.) using a......

Words: 1070 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Ethics Essay

...individual’s duty to do an action just because the act itself is the right thing to do (Boylan, 2009). This paper will address differences and similarities among the virtue ethics theory, deontology, and utilitarianism. Virtue ethics theory does not emphasize an individual’s duty to perform any certain act as this theory looks more at the individual’s character. The value of the action is what determines the value of the individual’s trait. However, this theory does take into consideration an individual’s reputation and looks at the bigger picture and not judge an individual on one mistake. Utilitarianism determines the moral worth of an individual by the outcome of the action. Deontology focuses more on the right and wrong of the action and not the consequence of the action. When looking at the similarities each theory does have a goal of causing less harm and support actions that benefit others. These theories are guidelines that guide individuals to making ethical decisions. The differences in these theories is utilitarianism support statements like the end does justify the means as this theory looks at an action benefiting the most individuals as the right action. Deontology supports the statement the end does not justify the means as this theory focus on the universal approach of what is moral or not. Last, virtue ethics takes into consideration an individual’s character rather than the consequence of the individuals actions. In looking at the three......

Words: 421 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Teleology and Deontology

...TELEOLOGY and DEONTOLOGY You ever heard the saying “the ends justify the means”? What exactly does this mean? Well it means just because you do something bad as long as the result is good the action can be forgiven. If one man kills another man he is a murderer. But what if the man he killed, killed others? Or done worse crimes? Was he a rapist? Possibly, and if he is then was his actions justified? The saying does say if the result is good the action is justified but how good of a result does it have to be? If you rob a bank and give the money to the less fortunate is that justified? How about killing one to save the lives of many? Let’s use teleology and deontology to help us figure this out. First let’s define what deontology and teleology mean. The word deontology comes from the Greek roots deon, which means duty, and logos, which means science. Which means deontology is the "science of duty." Deontology focuses on independent moral rules or duties. In order to make the correct moral choices, we simply have to understand what our moral duties are and what correct rules help us regulate those duties. The word teleology comes from the Greek roots telos, which means end, and logos, which means science. Which means teleology is the "science of ends." Teleology focuses on the consequences which our actions might have. When we make choices which result in the correct consequences, then we are acting morally. When we make choices which result in the incorrect consequences,......

Words: 672 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Ren History

...good leader. Even though the book was written in specific after Machiavelli had been tortured for a week as a prisoner after the fall of the Florentine Republic, we still use The Prince as a foundation for political theory as the book transcends historical moments. By comparing The Prince to Jacob Burckhardt, analyzing Machiavelli’s principles, and looking into Machiavelli’s notion of virtù we are able to better comprehend the Italian Renaissance and how an article written for a specific historical moment can still be used as a political foundation. Jacob Burckhardt was a historian of art and culture and the author of, “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy,” which laid the foundation for our understanding of the renaissance. Now how does that play into the text, The Prince? Burckhardt brought to light two main concepts that play defining roles in what we understand of the renaissance. The first of these two concepts is individuality. Up until the 14th century, at the beginning of the Italian Renaissance, people didn’t view themselves as individuals and therefore didn’t identify in an individualistic light. Before the Renaissance people always identified as a part of something bigger such as a family or a religious affiliation, but the emergence of the Renaissance era wouldn’t have been possible if people still viewed themselves as just a piece to the puzzle that they had no power over. This idea of individualism was very modern and something that is still prevalent.......

Words: 1353 - Pages: 6