But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

Why the End Does Not Justify the Means


Why don't we torture accused criminals in order to find who is guilty? Because the end does not justify the means.

It has become clear that many politicians and lawyers, and a few real people, don’t understand what is meant by The End Does Not Justify the Means.

They act like people are saying the desire to have pancakes cannot justify making batter. But this is more specific. It’s about good versus evil. In their unfortunate perspective, caring about what is right must seem insane.

But the truth is that this phrase sums up one of the most important principles of ethics and morality:

It means that there are certain fundamental principles that are “right”, “good”, et cetera, that are essential to those conditions…and you cannot justify violating them because you have some “right” or “good” goal in mind.

For example, you cannot have justice, unless you adhere to the principles of justice; It’s not OK to do unjust things to people simply because you have a just goal in mind.

This is a basic philosophical rule that is ignored or denied by almost all evil people you will find out there, and supported by almost all good ones. Marxists coined the modern use of the phrase “the end justifies the means”, and naturally they and their socialist spinoffs were responsible for the vast majority of all great evils, for the past century.

Evil Men

Joseph Stalin, for example, justified the deaths of tens of millions of his own people, by saying that the population was too large for (relatively inefficient) Communism to support. The mass death left Soviet society more sustainable. Did the betterment of millions of peoples’ lives justify the murder of millions of other people? According to Consequentialist socialists; yes.

Previously, the Dominican order of Catholicism was an advocate of the idea that the end justifies the means (in spirit), and it just so happens that they went on to conduct, among other great evils, the Inquisition. It was literally claimed that you may be saving the soul of the man you tortured or murdered in the name of God, so it was OK. All the ways the current Pope is less popular than his predecessor appear to center around his being of that Dominican mindset. In fact, the position he held before becoming pontiff was the Head of the Office of Inquisition, I kid you not…it had simply changed its name for PR reasons.

Likewise, when Machiavelli used that phrase in his satirical indictment of the evils and abuses of Feudal government, The Prince, he succeeded in hitting the nail on the head as to what is most wrong and unjust.

Required by Good

In reality, the end does not justify the means, in part because the long-term outcome of ignoring principles in order to buy short-term results is a failure of your own goals.

The idea that the wise principles override the short-sighted goal (a form of Deontology, if you like them thar fancified words) is why courts will overturn convictions on technicalities, one of the few good and just things remaining in the US legal system. Any honest — or as close as they get –prosecutor will tell you that the reason they hate that condition is how it keeps them from breaking rules and simply gambling punishment, in order to convict people they think are guilty. They are restrained from unjust acts, by this absolute enforcement of the principles of justice, even though it may let a guilty man walk in the short term.

When you have a principle, like “do not violate someone else’s property”, it cannot be overridden because you have some end in mind like “but the wealth I steal from his safe will benefit several other people who deserve it more”.

Like setting aside money for bills and emergencies instead of partying all of your paycheck away, sticking to the principles of what is good, right, and just produces the best outcome in the long run. You are investing in your ultimate goal by sticking to it when the going gets tough. When you panic and abandon your principles for a short-term benefit, you end up making things worse in the end.

THAT is why the end does not justify the means.

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May 12, 2011 - Posted by | Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. No…….it REALITY, the ENDS DO justify the means….it’s simply a case of man made morals stickyfying the whole situation. Telling racists that being a racist wil give them cancer…and ASTONISHINGLY that lie working………DOESN’T justify the lie? Is that really what you are saying?

    Comment by Smig Robustus | December 13, 2012 | Reply

    • In fact, you just gave a great example of your immoral behavior NOT being justified.

      You have no right to coerce someone else, just to force them to do what you think is right.

      People absolutely have a right to be wrong. If they are racist, they are wrong…but unless they violate someone, by robbing, assaulting, or defrauding them, they have harmed nobody and it’s none of your business…yet YOU would harm THEM, by defrauding them, just in a selfish, petty attempt to force them to think your way.

      That is disgusting.

      Comment by kazvorpal | December 14, 2012 | Reply

  2. The ultimate test of the leader is always that he results in him in other men the conviction and also the will to remain.
    Nowadays nothing goes to be sure, except death and taxes.

    Comment by Abram Hugill | March 9, 2012 | Reply

  3. A while ago, there was a controversy over the court-martial of a Navy SEAL accused of slapping a prisoner . Some people argued that the military should have let it go. That would have been wrong. The conduct at issue was arguably a violation of UCMJ Article 128, and it was proper for the Navy to seek prosecution. If Navy SEALs could violate Article 128 with impunity, why could they not violate with impunity Article 118, Article 120, Article 106, Article 104, Article 94, or Article 92?

    But then this begs a broader question. Who decides what is right or wrong, other than the Lord of Lords and King of Kings who created an inescapable, everlasting torture chamber and has the power to cast His enemies therein?

    Comment by Michael Ejercito | August 15, 2011 | Reply

    • The boundaries of our natural rights allow us to each decide what is right or wrong, for ourselves. What is right and wrong for society centers around the protection of those rights.

      There are also certain principles of justice, that were acknowledged by the better political thinkers throughout history, which are essential to a sound society. For example, it is ALWAYS an injustice to:

      • Entrap, deceive, or otherwise coerce a suspect
      • Extort and bribe witnesses,

      These are standard operating procedure in the US legal system today, officially promoted on the premise that The End Justifies the Means, but are all gross miscarriages of justice, that should be banned in all cases.

      • If you talk someone into trying to commit a “terrorist act”, and then provide him with a fake bomb, for example, YOU are the criminal, not he.
      • If you are interrogating two suspects, and you tell one you have enough evidence to send him away, but will give him a deal if he tells you about how the other guy did it, that is either extortion (if you’re lying about the evidence) or bribery (if you are telling the truth)

      Violation of such principles is one of the main reasons why so many Death Row prisoners are being exonerated by advances in DNA technology, today, as well as the source of the slew of fake “thwarted terrorist attacks” and other police state evils hagriding our society.

      Comment by Kaz Vorpal | November 7, 2011 | Reply

      • *

        The boundaries of our natural rights allow us to each decide what is right or wrong, for ourselves. What is right and wrong for society centers around the protection of those rights.

        Philip Garrido thought it was right for him to kidnap an eleven-year-old girl, keep her in his backyard, and rape her repeatedly .

        Other people thought it was wrong.

        They can not all be right.

        Comment by Michael Ejercito | November 7, 2011 | Reply

        • That is the difference between coercion and choice.

          Your right to swing your fist, of course, ends at the tip of my nose.

          The girl’s natural rights — her property — rights were, according to that book, being violated by that guy.

          There is no better, more principled philosophical foundation for preventing that sort of evil, than natural law.

          Comment by Kaz Vorpal | November 11, 2011 | Reply

          • How is it better than the Holy Whim of the LORD God Almighty?

            Comment by Michael Ejercito | November 11, 2011 | Reply


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