• Lawrence of Arabia
    9
    It would seem to me that the ends do indeed justify the means, and I will explain why. First, however, a reasonable definition of both "ends" and "means" must be established. I will define them as follows:

    Means: the actions you take to produce the desired goal
    Ends: the intended goal that is being fulfilled by your actions

    The problem comes in determining how far down the line to go in terms of results. For example, imagine a scenario where if I take a step I will fall off a cliff. That would be a bad effect in and of itself, however, if we look further down the line we find out that I am cliff jumping, and will fall into water. All situations need context, as I would not jump off of a cliff if I did not know I would be safe.

    For my argument, I will say the goal of that particular action in that situation is how far we should go. For example, my goal in life is happiness. Although writing this discussion may indeed help with that life goal, it is not my objective in this situation. My objective in this situation is to answer the question proposed in the title.
    I will now make my argument.

    -Actions are considered good or evil (right or wrong) based on their goal which is being accomplished by the consequences of that particular action.
    -If the goal being accomplished is good then something is considered right.
    - As I stated earlier, we need context to judge an action.
    -That context is a goal, which shows why someone did something.
    -Therefore, we measure actions based on the goal being accomplished.
    -The ends justify the means.
  • NOS4A2
    1.6k


    What if human beings are the brick and mortar of said goal, for instance in the former Soviet Union? Mao’s China? The ends did justify the means but the end was never realized. Instead we get tyranny and corpses.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    -Actions are considered good or evil (right or wrong) based on their goal which is being accomplished by the consequences of that particular action.Lawrence of Arabia

    This is actually just a reformulated way of saying the ends justify the means, so it doesnt work as an argument/premiss. This is your conclusion disguised as a premiss. Someone could just as easily assert the opposite, that actions are good or evil independent of the goal.

    -If the goal being accomplished is good then something is considered right.Lawrence of Arabia

    No, the goal being good only establishes that the goal is good. Individual actions towards any goal (be that goal good or bad) can be moral, immoral, or amoral. Walking for example is something you might do as part of the process of something virtuous (work at a charity or a soup kitchen maybe) but that doesnt make walking morally good. Its amoral. By your model, anything done towards a good goal is likewise good, but again this is just asserting your conclusion as part of your premiss.

    - As I stated earlier, we need context to judge an action.Lawrence of Arabia

    While I tend to agree, there are moral systems under which that is not the case. A principal based approach is like this, for example.

    -That context is a goal, which shows why someone did something.Lawrence of Arabia

    Just including this for completeness sale, this could be merged with the previous one, very nearly redundant.

    -Therefore, we measure actions based on the goal being accomplished.Lawrence of Arabia

    No sir, “therefore” nothing. This doesnt and shouldnt pertain only to morality and so its not part of a moral argument. Your previous premisses do not establish this, so no “therefore” for you Im afraid.

    -The ends justify the means.Lawrence of Arabia

    So obviously I do not agree with your conclusion here. The ends CAN justify the means, but I dont see how thats always the case.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9
    The ends did justify the means but the end was never realizedNOS4A2
    exactly. The end was never realized, or as it was in both the end was not as it seemed. So the "intended" end still justified the means.

    Edit: this is in response to NOS4A2's comment
  • Pfhorrest
    590
    Ends do not justify means in the same way that observations do not verify theories: both are a case of affirming the consequent. But observations can still falsify theories, so...
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9

    Well, thanks for pointing out every error in my argument. I good counter-argument I must say.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9

    That is a good explanation, and considering that my original argument is void thanks to dingo, I think I'll accept that explanation.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    What do you mean by affirming consent?
  • Pfhorrest
    590
    Affirming the consequent is a logical fallacy.

    Falsification and the ethical analogue thereof are, instead, the valid move of denying the consequent.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Hate to disagree with you again considering your gentlemanly response but I dont think your argument is void. I think there is some interesting things to say about the end justifying the means.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Right, using my phone so auto-correct got me in that.
    So you going to answer the question? It would have been pretty easy to make a pedantic correction AND actually answer the question. Give it a try, I believe in you.
  • Pfhorrest
    590
    Affirming the consequent is when you invalidly infer from “if P then Q” that “if Q then P”. That’s not valid, but inferring “if not-Q then not-P” is valid.

    Confirmationism commits that fallacy when it infers from some theory implying an observation that such an observation would also imply the theory’s truth. That’s invalid. Instead, falsificationism validly infers only that if such an observation is contradicted, the theory is false.

    Consequentialism likewise commits the fallacy, or a moral analogue of it at least, when it infers from good consequences following from an action that the action itself is good, the ends justifying the means. That’s not valid, or “deontically valid” i.e. just, but inferring that bad consequences imply a bad action is.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    So for example if I justified lying to someone in order to save 1 million innocent peoples lives...thats a fallacy?
  • Pfhorrest
    590
    Yes, but something being fallacious doesn’t mean its conclusion is false, just that you have not offered a valid justification for it yet.
  • Pantagruel
    401
    Aldous Huxley wrote a book entitled "Ends and Means". Basically, he powerfully makes the point that the means become part of the end, so it is misleading to suggest that it is even possible to attain a good end through evil means. Ends are always constituted of the means whereby they are achieved.

    I am with Huxley on this.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Whats fallacious about that statement, because it isnt that its affirming the consequent. You are misusing that term in your comments, hence I immediately asked what YOU mean by affirming the consequent. You confirmed that you use the standard definition, but then you again misapplied it (to my lies for lives example) so Im confused.
    Did you mean that some other fallacy is being made in my lies for lives example? What fallacy?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    I was wondering why we were discussing ends and means again. Lenin supposedly said, "If the ends do not justify the means, what in god's name does?"

    Glad you brought up Huxley, there.

    Ends are always constituted of the means whereby they are achieved.Pantagruel

    Which explains why things turned out so poorly under Lenin and his immediate successor, Stalin, a committed "achieve the ends or else, never mind the means" kind of dictator.
  • Pfhorrest
    590


    The following is a formally invalid argument that hinges on affirming the consequent in a modal context:

    P -> Q
    []Q
    .: []P

    Whether those box operators are alethic necessity or deontic obligation. If we take them as deontic, and P = “You lie” and Q = “Lives are saved”, we get the argument you were making, which is still invalid. It may nevertheless be the case that []P anyway, though; but this argument doesn’t show that.

    But an argument of this form is valid:

    P -> Q
    []~Q
    .: []~P

    So consequences are still relevant, they just can’t positively justify any particular means, only rule them out.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Ya, you are still misapplying terms, trying to cram formal logic where none was intended or needed. Your objections do not apply to my statement.
    Nice try but Im not buying it, so its a hard pass from me.
  • ovdtogt
    367
    The road to hell is paved with 'ends' that justify the means. Idealism has produced the greatest evil committed by Man: Communisim, Fascism, Stalin, Mao, Hitler. All were prepared to sacrifice millions to achieve an imagined Utopia.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9

    if I understand Pfhorrest correctly, he is saying that it is consequentialism because the original argument for ends justify the means was that if the conclusion is good, then the means must also be good. That argument is a fallacy, as was pointed out. The conclusion may be true, however, as with your lies for lives example.
  • A Seagull
    117
    Ends: the intended goal that is being fulfilled by your actionsLawrence of Arabia

    The 'ends' are not this.

    The 'ends' are all the consequences to all people over both the short term and the long term as a result of the action taken.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9

    What is your reasoning for that? I accepted my definition as a postulate (with a small amount of reasoning) because I did not think someone could come up with an objective definition of ends. If you have, by all means, share.

    Additionally, the small reasoning I choose my definition was that "ends justify the means" is usually used before the ends are fully realized. It is impossible to accurately predict every single consequence of one's action(s), so one must assume the most probable thing that is to happen. One usually knows what is likely to happen when committing his action, but may not be able to see what is hidden, hence "intended goal".
  • A Seagull
    117
    My 'reasoning' is simply that the consequences of an action are inevitably considerably greater than the 'intended end'. And the possibility (or probability) of all those consequences need to be taken into account when assessing the merits of any action. It is the difference between being an accomplished chess player and a 'pawn pusher'.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9


    The possibility (or probability) of all those consequences need to be taken into account when assessing the merits of any action.A Seagull

    The problem is that is is impossible to do this. If I build a house for the homeless, but it ends up collapsing and killing ten people due to a faulty screw, I could not have foreseen that (at least in this little imaginary scenario. Pretend the screw looked normal and was inspected). There are trillions upon trillions of possible effects of an action, and it is improbable to take them all into account.

    The consequences of an action are only revealed once they happen, eliminating the need for "the ends justify the means" under your definition. However this phrase was used, so not all people have accepted this definition of ends.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.6k
    The problem comes in determining how far down the line to go in terms of results. For example, imagine a scenario where if I take a step I will fall off a cliff. That would be a bad effect in and of itself, however, if we look further down the line we find out that I am cliff jumping, and will fall into water. All situations need context, as I would not jump off of a cliff if I did not know I would be safe.Lawrence of Arabia
    What if you are a murderer and rapist, then you jumping off a cliff and onto solid ground rather than a lake, would be a good means to a good end.

    The road to hell is paved with 'ends' that justify the means. Idealism has produced the greatest evil committed by Man: Communisim, Fascism, Stalin, Mao, Hitler. All were prepared to sacrifice millions to achieve an imagined Utopia.ovdtogt
    What if those that were "sacrificed" were against creating the Utopia as imagined by Stalin, Mao, Hitler, etc.? What is a Utopia and who gets to define it?



    To say that something is good or bad is subjective. So what may be good means and ends for one, may be bad for another. There are no objective good or bad means and ends, only subjective ones.
  • A Seagull
    117

    You seem to be missing my point.

    In your example, you are able to consider the possibility of the house collapsing, so you can also ascribe a certain, albeit small, probability of this occurring. What is then required is a consideration of all the possible consequences that you can think of and ascribing probabilities to each and then totting them all up.
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9

    Your point about my post is true, however, the point I was making was just that situations need future context, as I assumed but did not write that past context is readily available, nor did I think very much of it. Thank you for pointing that out. ( I also assumed I was not a murder or rapist, which I am in fact not either of those)
  • Lawrence of Arabia
    9

    I gave the house example as a means to try to give a practical example, but as you noticed it has some flaws. The point I attempted to make was that you cannot predict all futures, as there are trillions upon trillions of them. One can only see the future when it comes to pass.
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