Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by ysabel, Jul 10, 2010.

  1. ysabel

    ysabel /ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5

    We often heard of "the ends justify the means" debate. As long as the result is good, then it doesn't matter what we do to get the result. Some may agree and some may not.

    I'm curious though whether "intentions justify the ends" (and if yes then, intentions could justify both ends and means).

    What if our intentions are good, we do x action, and get a bad result. Can we justify the whole thing saying "it wasn't my intention"? As long as our intentions are good, no matter how we fail in achieving it or how the results of our actions didn't lead to our desired intention, can the means and and ends be justified?

  2. Rebeccaaa

    Rebeccaaa yellow 4!

    I've always said it's intentions that count. Even in extreme cases, I think that it surpasses everything else (means, end).
    If, for example, someone gets seriously hurt during the means then obviously 'good intentions' doesn't count for much any more, but I would forgive someone far, far quicker (or even immediately) if that were the case.

    But that's on a day-to-day situation basis. I suppose there are cases where even good intentions are faulty due to lack of knowledge or acceptable moral. Mentally ill people, for one thing (although it still stands that if they think they're doing the right thing, shouldn't there be some leniency...) Also, experiments on animals are done with good intentions (eg furthering science and helping mankind) yet some of them years ago were brutal and the good intention doesn't really justify it.

    I just remembered "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." There's so many different sides to this... guess that's the philosophy section for ya.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2010
  3. SmilinSilhouette

    SmilinSilhouette Registered Member

    I prefer to use the word rationalization, as justification has the underlying meaning of right and wrong.

    In my opinion, absolutely the end does not justify the means. If the means are unethical, immoral, or unwarranted then even if the outcome is good the path there was still bad.

    The path to disaster is paved with good intentions!
  4. Wade8813

    Wade8813 Registered Member

    I think they can.

    For instance, if someone attempted to do something good, and they knew what they were doing, and something that was out of their control went unexpectedly wrong, I wouldn't hold it against them.

    On the other hand, if they tried to do something good, but they were stupid and inept, they aren't excused. It is a mitigating factor, but I'm still willing to tear them a new one.
  5. quantumechanic

    quantumechanic Registered Member

    I think that would depend entirely on the means taken to achieve the ends.
    If, for example, someone were to have good intentions, but had taken terrible means to achieve an awful end, he can't be said to have been justified in his actions. On the other hand though, if he'd use the right means but the end didn't work out the way he wanted, I wouldn't blame him.
    In any case, in the whole "intentions"->"means"->"ends" train, I don't think you can leave one out and get a clear picture of justifiability.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2010
  6. Merricles

    Merricles Registered Member

    Ends do not ALWAYS justify means. I agree with SmilinSilhouette that rationalization would be a better term.

    Suppose this. I have the 'intentions' of making a medication that negates the effect of drinking alcohol on the human body. The 'intent' is that one can drink until they can't walk right if they so desire, and at the end of the night if they are not home, they can take this medication to become unimpared by it. All my test have shown that this medication works in a controlled environment but the boss wont allow me to distribute the drug. So, my intentions are good here, and are to better the world. I go to the bar, drink until I can't see straight, then comes closing time. I take my medication in plenty of time for it to take effect and do it's job. I get in my car, start it up and begin the drive home. At this point, it turns out that for some reason, the drug has not done its job. However, I am so determined to show that it does work and with my judgement impared as it is I continue on my drive. I swerve, hit a small child and his/her pregnant mother as they are walking home from getting milk at the store. My intentions were good, does that make this ok? Does that negate the wrong that resulted from my 'good intentions'?
  7. SlowburnDarkly

    SlowburnDarkly Registered Member

    I remember this from my college Ethics class from a few years ago.

    My take on this is that both intentions and the ends matter. I have often thought that philosophers who have one formula or one phrase to label every possible outcome may not be looking at it from a realistic perspective. Obviously, the end doesn't always justify the means, but sometimes it does. Intentions don't always matter if the end is bad enough. You always have to look at these situations in our real world on a case-by-case basis. And yes, as it has previously been mentioned, the means do matter as well. There is no blanket way of thinking for every situation-- we have to take everything in, explore the both fine and large details, and then make a decision.

    Sometimes both the means and the end are justified. Sometimes neither, or just one. Also, we have to look at it from the perspective of others, both those involved and those not. They might have completely opposing outlook. After a certain point, you have to think about more than yourself. All of the above matters, though.
  8. shelgarr

    shelgarr Registered Member

    Nope, nope, and nope. Ethics, kindness, and integrity are moment to moment. Some goals or outcomes may never be reached because variables might get in the way. So process and route better be as good as one can make it. And I hate when people say "that wasn't my intention". Well duh!!! My husband is famous for it...."it wasn't my intention to not fix the toilet when I decided to read on the internet all day". It's like an excuse for people not taking it into their control how they act or what they do just because they didn't intend for a negative result. Take control of what you can!!!
  9. ysabel

    ysabel /ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5

    So in your example, it seems that:
    intention (to show it does work etc) good
    means (continue driving despite knowing it's not done it's job) bad
    ends (hitting victims) bad

    It seems that the ENDS trump the intention (in case where one is good and other is bad). That despite good intentions, if end isn't good then it's overall bad. If end is good, would it even matter if intention was bad?

    Then it all comes back to the old battle between means and ends.

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